Trump: ‘I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn’
President Trump in an early morning tweet on Sunday said he never asked former FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn, saying "fake news" outlets are "covering another Comey lie."
“I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn,” the president said.
“Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!”
I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017
Comey, who was fired by Trump in May, testified before Congress in June that Trump pressured him during an Oval Office meeting in February to end the investigation into Flynn. Trump's lawyers have disputed that account.
Flynn on Friday pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his conversations during the presidential transition with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. about sanctions related to the Kremlin’s election interference. He became the first person to have held a position in the Trump administration to be charged by the special counsel.
Trump in an apparent shift on Saturday tweeted that he had to fire Flynn as national security adviser because the retired Army general lied to Vice President Pence and the FBI.
"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, which was sent while he was traveling in New York City for fundraising events.
"It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful," he added. "There was nothing to hide!"
Two sources familiar with that tweet, however, told The Washington Post on Saturday that John Dowd, Trump's personal lawyer, had crafted that tweet.
After Flynn was fired, Trump said in February that “I fired him because of what he said to Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Will Pence primary Trump — and win? Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary MORE. Very simple.”
Some legal experts have speculated that if Trump knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI and then asked Comey to drop the investigation, it could amount to obstruction of justice.
"This is a pretty substantial confession to essential knowledge elements of an obstruction of justice charge," Susan Hennessey, a national security fellow at the Brookings Institution, tweeted on Saturday.
Trump told NBC News in May that he was thinking of "this Russia thing" when he decided to fire Comey, who had been leading the FBI probe into Russia's election meddling.
“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said 'you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’ "
The White House days earlier had attributed Comey's firing to his handling of the investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Shontel Brown gaining ground against Nina Turner in Ohio: poll Biden hits trail for McAuliffe in test of his political brand MORE's email server.
Comey himself offered a cryptic message on Saturday shortly after Trump's tweet about Flynn's firing.
“Beautiful Long Island Sound from Westport, CT,” Comey wrote in the caption of an Instagram post. “To paraphrase the Buddha — Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun; the moon; and the truth.”
— This report was updated at 7:50 a.m.