The US president has remained confident that testimony from his former national security adviser did not implicate him. But his new timeline on Michael Flynn raises further questions.
US President Donald Trump insisted there was “absolutely no collusion” between his election campaign and Russia, in comments to media on Saturday.
“What has been shown is no collusion, no collusion,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for fundraising events in New York. “There’s been absolutely no collusion, so we’re very happy.”
His comments came after his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty in court on Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US before Trump took power.
Investigators also revealed that Flynn was now cooperating with authorities and that he was prepared to testify that he was directed by a “very senior” transition official to make contact with Russia.
Many major US outlets reported that the figure allegedly directing Flynn was likely to be Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner. Flynn’s contact with Russia undermined Obama administration foreign policy at the time.
Later on Saturday Trump posted on Twitter, saying Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador were entirely legal and that there was “nothing to hide,” but the post presented a different timeline of events to what the White House had earlier indicated.
Trump’s Friday Tweet implied he knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI — a criminal act — and that this had contributed to his firing, but this was never listed as a reason for his dismissal.
Flynn was forced to resign in February after just three weeks for supposedly misleading Trump staff about his communication with former Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. On Friday, investigators made clear that Flynn had kept his superiors abreast of his conversations, which took place after the election.
If Trump knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI before he was asked to resign — as Trump implied on Twitter — then he would have known about Flynn’s crime even as he reportedly pressed then FBI chief James Comey to drop his inquiry into Flynn. Trump fired Comey soon after that reported conversation.
Flynn was the first member of Trump’s administration to plead guilty to a crime since Special Counsel Robert Mueller began investigating Russian attempts to influence the 2016 US presidential election and possible collusion by Trump aides.
Immediately after Flynn’s guilty plea, White House lawyer Ty Cobb insisted Flynn had only implicated himself. “Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn,” he said.
But Flynn’s compliance grants Mueller access to someone who was one of Trump’s closest advisers during the campaign, transition and the early days of the administration.
aw/ng (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)