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CNN report: WH lawyer told Trump that Flynn misled FBI and Pence

By Final Call News | Last updated: Dec 6, 2017 - 12:15:50 AM

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President Trump was told by a high-ranked White House lawyer that then-national security adviser “Michael Flynn had misled the FBI and lied to Vice President Mike Pence and should be fired,” according to a story reported by CNN.

The story, which broke at Final Call press time Dec. 4, drew more fire for an embattled president and besieged White House facing legal scrutiny.

“The White House’s chief lawyer told President Donald Trump in January he believed then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had misled the FBI and lied to Vice President Mike Pence and should be fired, a source familiar with the matter said,” CNN reported.

Analysts questioned why Mr. Flynn, who was serving as national security advisor, was not fired immediately, if he was believed to be lying about the interactions with Russia, which have plagued the White House and are the subject of federal and congressional investigations. Mr. Flynn has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with Justice Dept. special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

The Washington Post reported Dec. 3: “President Trump’s personal lawyer said Sunday (Dec. 3) that the president knew in late January that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had probably given FBI agents the same inaccurate account he provided to Vice President Pence about a call with the Russian ambassador.

“Trump lawyer John Dowd said the information was passed to Trump by White House counsel Donald McGahn, who had been warned about Flynn’s statement to the vice president by a senior Justice Department official. The vice president said publicly at the time that Flynn had told him he had not discussed sanctions with the Russian diplomat—a statement disproved by a U.S. intelligence intercept of a phone call between Flynn and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Sergey Kislyak

“Trump was aware of the issue a couple of weeks before a conversation with then-FBI Director James B. Comey in which Comey said the president asked him if he could be lenient while investigating Flynn, whom Trump had just fired for misleading Pence about the nature of his conversations with the Russian,” the Post said.

The CNN and Post reports followed weekend tweets that sparked questions about what the president knew about Mr. Flynn’s truthfulness, any contacts with the Russians and when the president knew it. Mr. Flynn was a fixture on the Trump campaign trail.  He pleaded guilty Dec. 1.  As the Associated press noted, the “plea to a single felony count of false statements made him the first official of the Trump White House to be charged so far in the criminal investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. And his action could be an ominous sign for a White House shadowed for the past year by investigations, turning Flynn into a potentially key government cooperator as prosecutors examine whether the Trump campaign and Russia worked together to influence the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.”

A controversial Trump tweet Dec. 3 said: “I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!”

The day before Mr. Trump tweeted: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.” It was the first time Mr. Trump had said anything other than Mr. Flynn was fired for lying to Mr. Pence. But even that firing only came after Washington Post coverage of allegations of Mr. Flynn’s wrongdoing.

These reported conversations lead to questions about whether the president was trying to derail the FBI probe and end the investigation into Russia and the 2016 election. Mr. Trump fired the FBI director, but special prosecutor Mueller was appointed.

Meanwhile the White House threw new fodder into the mix with Trump lawyer John Dodd saying he drafted the “sloppily worded” Dec. 3 tweet and later saying Mr. Trump could not be guilty of obstruction because he was president and there were questions about whether the president might pardon himself.

Norm Eisen, chair of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility, countered on Twitter: “Dowd is serving baloney for breakfast” as “courts regularly consider otherwise lawful conduct by government officials to be obstruction if undertaken with corrupt intent.”

According to the Washington Post, Atty. Dowd also “said it was inaccurate to say the president was told that Flynn had lied to the FBI. Dowd said Sunday that Trump knew only what acting attorney general Sally Yates had told the White House counsel: that Flynn’s accounts to the agents interviewing him were the same as those Flynn gave Pence, and ‘that the [Justice] Department was not accusing him of lying.’ ”

“If Trump knew that Flynn might not have been accurate with the FBI, it could provide motivation for any alleged effort to obstruct justice, said Barak Cohen, a former federal prosecutor who does white-collar defense work at the Perkins Coie law firm,” the Post reported. “It bolsters the intent for committing obstruction.”

“A person close to the White House involved in the case termed the (Dec. 3) tweet ‘a screw-up of historic proportions’ that has ‘caused enormous consternation in the White House,’ ” the Post said.

—Final Call Staff