said Saturday he was “very happy” after his former national security adviser pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents and struck a deal to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Mr. Trump, in his first comments on the matter since former national security adviser
entered his guilty plea in federal court on Friday, said what had been shown was that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.
“There’s been absolutely no collusion, so we’re very happy…,” Mr. Trump said outside the White House on Saturday. “We’ll see what happens.”
The special counsel’s office hasn’t issued a public determination on whether anyone from Mr. Trump’s team colluded with Russia to help the president win the 2016 election.
Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his interactions with the Russian ambassador during the transition. He also pleaded guilty to lying about requests he made to foreign officials during the transition to impede a United Nations Security Council vote on Israel.
Court documents make clear that Mr. Flynn engaged in those communications after consulting with other senior members of the Trump transition team. In a tweet just after noon on Saturday, Mr. Trump argued that none of the actions during the transition broke the law and said it was Mr. Flynn’s subsequent lying about them to the vice president that led to the retired general’s dismissal from the White House in February.
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies,” he said in the tweet. “It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
Steven Levin, a former federal prosecutor, said the president’s tweet could put him in legal jeopardy.
“Trump has acknowledged he knew that Flynn lied to the FBI,” Mr. Levin said.
He added, “That makes it a much stronger case that he was obstructing justice when he told [then-FBI Director James] Comey to back off.”
John Dowd, who heads the president’s private legal team, said he didn’t believe Mr. Trump’s tweet would strengthen the special counsel’s obstruction of justice probe. Mr. Dowd called Mr. Trump’s tweet a “paraphrase” of White House lawyer Ty Cobb’s statement the day before, which said Mr. Flynn’s statements to investigators “mirror” similar ones he made to Vice President
about his Russian contacts earlier this year.
Mr. Comey, whom Mr. Trump fired in May, has testified that Mr. Trump asked him to back off his investigation of Mr. Flynn, which the president denies.
Mr. Mueller’s office hasn’t said whether any of Mr. Flynn’s actions during the transition broke the law. An obscure federal statute known as the Logan Act bars unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with foreign governments in relation to any disputes or controversies. Court documents show Mr. Flynn was negotiating with Russia and other nations on sanctions and the Israel resolution while
was still president, staking out positions that countered the Obama administration’s.
In a statement issued Friday by his lawyer, Mr. Flynn denied allegations of treason and other “outrageous acts” he said had been leveled at him since his resignation from the White House. But the retired three-star U.S. Army general acknowledged that he lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right,” Mr. Flynn said. “My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country.”
The question is what he may have provided to secure a plea deal. He would have had to offer incriminating information on a higher-ranking official or multiple similar-ranking officials, according to legal experts familiar with prosecutorial practice.
Mr. Flynn is the second of Mr. Trump’s inner-circle campaign advisers to be charged with a crime in Mr. Mueller’s probe.
The president’s former campaign chairman,
was charged in late October with crimes including conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, operating as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal and making false statements to the Justice Department.
Mr. Manafort was charged alongside
his longtime associate and former adviser to the Trump campaign, and has denied the charges. Both men have pleaded not guilty and plan to fight the allegations in court.
Another former Trump campaign associate, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty in early October to lying to federal agents about his campaign contacts with Russians and struck a plea agreement to cooperate with Mr. Mueller.
—Rebecca Ballhaus and Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this article.
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