President Donald Trump had been unusually quiet on Twitter about the bombshell news that his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russian officials. That changed on Saturday, when Trump took to his favorite social media outlet to say Flynn had “nothing to hide.” But in doing so, Trump may have admitted to something that could get him in trouble in the future because his tweet suggested he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired him.
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” Trump tweeted. “He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
The first part of the tweet immediately raised eyebrows. Why? Because it would suggest Trump knew more about Flynn’s lies than what he has said publicly. When Trump fired Flynn on Feb. 13 he only said it was because his then-national security adviser had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials. The Washington Post revealed news that Flynn had lied to the FBI as well three days after he was fired. More importantly though, it would suggest Trump knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI when he asked then-FBI chief James Comey to go easy on Flynn on Feb. 14. That is at least what Comey told Congress in June.
“The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, ‘He is a good guy and has been through a lot’,” Comey said in his written testimony to Congress. “He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, ‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go’.”
The Washington Post is reporting that it was Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, who drafted the tweet and not the president himself. The Post explains why that’s important:
Its authorship could reduce how significantly it communicates anything about when the president knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI, but also raises questions about the public relations strategy of the president’s chief lawyer.
Two people close to the administration described the tweet simply as sloppy and unfortunate.
That revelation though didn’t stop critics from questioning how much Trump knew about Flynn’s lies to the FBI and whether he tried to obstruct justice. “If that is true, Mr. President, why did you wait so long to fire Flynn?” asked Rep. Adam Schiff in a tweet. “Why did you fail to act until his lies were publicly exposed? And why did you pressure Director Comey to “let this go?”
Rep. Ted Lieu of California was even more direct and apparently couldn’t contain his shock, deciding to tweet using capital letters: “THIS IS OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE,” he wrote.
Walter Shaub, the former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, flat out said that any other president could have lost his job over the tweet. “Before we slipped into an alternate universe of unabashed corruption, this tweet alone might have ended a Presidential administration,” Shaub wrote.