Flynn guilty plea overshadows Trump tax bill win

Donald Trump's former national security adviser agreed to a plea deal in which Flynn agreed to cooperate with Mueller's investigation.

    US President Donald Trump is defiant in the face of a snowballing crisis around his administration's ties to Russia.

    He said he had nothing to hide, just a day after his former national security adviser admitted to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Moscow.

    US President Donald Trump said Saturday he "had to fire" his former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to his administration and the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.

    "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President [Mike Pence] and the FBI," Trump tweeted on Saturday.

    The tweet came one day after Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in a probe of Russian interference in the US presidential election. Lying to the FBI is a federal felony.

    "He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!"

    Trump implications 

    Yet, if the president knew of Flynn's lying to the FBI when he was forced to step down, Trump's actions to pressure former-FBI director James Comey to end an investigation of Flynn could eventually lead to charges of obstruction of justice.

    Flynn emerged at the centre of an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the US presidential election last year and into whether Trump's campaign may have colluded with the Russians. He is cooperating with prosecutors.

    Flynn resigned in February after just 25 days as national security adviser, admitting to "inadvertently" giving "incomplete information" to key people in the White House, including Pence, about his communication with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office.

    Trump said Saturday he was not concerned about what Flynn might tell investigators.

    "What has been shown is no collusion, no collusion," Trump told reporters at the White House as he left Washington for fundraisers in New York.

    Trump has repeatedly denied collusion and downplayed the significance of aides implicated in the probe.

    A member of Trump's inner circle during the right-wing populist's election campaign and White House transition, Flynn pleaded guilty at a federal court in Washington on Friday to one count of making false statements to investigators about a conversation with the Russian ambassador.

    A White House lawyer said that Flynn's guilty plea does not implicate Trump in any wrongdoing.

    Mueller investigation

    Flynn is the fourth person associated with Trump to be charged in the widening investigation.

    George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy aide, pleaded guilty on October 30 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia.

    Paul Manafort - who was Trump's campaign manager from June to August 2016 - and Manafort associate Richard Gates were charged separately with conspiracy, money laundering and violations of lobbying laws related to Manafort's past lobbying work for a pro-Russian party in Ukraine.

    US security agencies have said since October 2016 that the highest levels of the Russian government directed internet hacking and other interference with the US election process.

    Moscow denies any election meddling, though Western intelligence agencies allege a long-standing pattern of Russian efforts to disrupt elections in Europe and elsewhere.

    The FBI led the federal investigation of suspected election meddling until May, when Trump sacked FBI chief James Comey. Within days, Trump's own Department of Justice named Mueller, a former prosecutor and FBI director, as special counsel to lead the Russia probe.

    Mueller's investigation has several thrusts, including whether there was any coordination between Trump's presidential campaign and the Russian government.

    Other targets of the Mueller investigation include top White House aide Jared Kushner, who is Trump's son-in-law, and one of the president's sons, Donald Trump Jr.

    Separately, the Washington Post Saturday said an FBI officer involved in the initial investigation who had been taken off the case over the summer, exchanged disparaging text messages about Trump and in support of rival Hillary Clinton with another staffer with whom he had been having an affair.

    It was unclear whether the FBI employees had allowed their personal views to cloud the investigation, but the revelation could provide fodder to Trump supporters who have said the investigation has been biased against Trump.

    SOURCE: DPA news agency


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