President Donald Trump on Friday jumped into the ongoing drama surrounding his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who told special counsel Robert Mueller about efforts by Trump’s lawyers to influence his cooperation with the Russia probe.
On Thursday, a previously redacted court filing revealed attempts Trump’s lawyers made to backchannel with Flynn’s lawyers.
Trump weighed in with a tweet on Friday, saying: “It now seems the General Flynn was under investigation long before was common knowledge. It would have been impossible for me to know this but, if that was the case, and with me being one of two people who would become president, why was I not told so that I could make a change?”
Facts first: Trump’s tweet is misleading and lacks context. For starters, the Justice Department and FBI conduct all their investigations in secret, including the one into Flynn. Trump also fails to mention the that he was repeatedly warned about Flynn, though not by the Justice Department, but he ignored that political advice and gave him a top job in the administration.
It’s no surprise that Flynn “was under investigation long before was common knowledge.”
The Justice Department and FBI generally don’t publicly reveal who is under investigation and what potential crimes are being looked at. In fact, internal Justice Department policies specifically instruct US attorneys to be extremely tight-lipped in public regarding ongoing criminal investigations.
In claiming that it “would have been impossible” to know that Flynn was under investigation, Trump is ignoring that some of his most trusted aides on the transition team did know about it.
Flynn briefed incoming White House counsel Don McGahn, who was the top lawyer on the Trump transition team. And Flynn’s lawyers briefed other attorneys on the transition team, according to The New York Times.
It’s unclear when Trump found out about the probe, though he eventually became aware that Flynn was also under investigation for lying to the FBI. Trump also fails to mention the backchanneling that took place between his lawyers and Flynn’s lawyer, which was revealed in a court filing Thursday, parts of which were previously redacted.
Trump is apparently correct that he wasn’t warned by the Justice Department about Flynn before naming him as his national security adviser.
President Barack Obama encouraged Trump not to give Flynn a White House job during their post-election meeting in the Oval Office, CNN reported. So did one of Trump’s closest confidants, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who publicly said that he advised Trump against bringing Flynn into the administration.
Trump ignored their advice and tapped Flynn to become national security adviser barely a week after the election. The Justice Department did eventually give the Trump White House a warning about Flynn, saying that he was not telling the truth about his communications with the Russian ambassador.
Flynn resigned after a few weeks in the job.