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Donald Trump

Trump changes reason for firing Flynn, denies asking FBI chief to drop investigation

“Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!” Trump tweeted, “After years of Comey running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History!”

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 December, 2017, 2:45am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 December, 2017, 11:28pm

US President Donald Trump on Sunday denied asking former FBI director James Comey to stop investigating ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about discussions with Russia.

Trump also insisted he and his campaign had not colluded with Moscow in last year’s election, and shifted blame on the Justice Department and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

“I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!” Trump said in a tweet.

But his position was complicated by another Twitter post in which he indicated he had fired Flynn because the national security chief had been untruthful not just to Vice-President Mike Pence but to the FBI as well.

That comment appeared to indicate Trump was acknowledging he knew at the time of Flynn’s firing in February that he had lied to the bureau’s agents.

“If that is true, Mr. President, why did you wait so long to fire Flynn?” asked Representative Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

“Why did you fail to act until his lies were publicly exposed? And why did you pressure Director Comey to ‘let this go?’”

White House officials, however, told The New York Times that Trump was only referencing Flynn’s guilty plea for lying to the FBI about his conversations with then Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak over sanctions president Barack Obama slapped on Russia for election meddling.

Two people briefed on the matter said the Twitter post was in fact written by Trump’s personal lawyer John Dowd, who apologised to the White House for the tactless language.

After he was fired himself in May, Comey testified under oath before a Senate panel that, a day after Flynn’s firing, Trump asked him to drop an investigation into the former national security adviser.

Watch: ‘No collusion’, says Trump on Flynn’s guilty plea

A lingering part of the drama has been that after the White House learned through the Justice Department that Flynn lied to the White House about discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Trump still waited 18 days to fire him.

Trump said he had the Russia probe in mind when he fired Comey. The move backfired and led the Justice Department to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel.

Mueller’s focus goes beyond possible collusion with Russia to business dealings and whether Trump himself tried to thwart the investigation.

US media reported that senior FBI counter-intelligence official Peter Strzok was removed from the investigation over the summer for sending text messages critical of Trump.

Trump retweeted a post from conservative commentator Paul Sperry about the news that highlighted the fact that Strzok had also worked on the probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.

On Sunday, Trump followed up with more tweets, slamming the FBI’s handling of the Clinton investigation.

“Tainted (no, very dishonest?) FBI “agent’s role in Clinton probe under review.” Led Clinton Email probe … Clinton money going to wife of another FBI agent in charge,” he tweeted.

“After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.”

As he left for a day trip to New York on Saturday, Trump again insisted his team had not plotted with Moscow to sway the election in his favour over Clinton, who won the popular vote but lost the all-important electoral college count.

“What has been shown is no collusion. There’s been absolutely no collusion. So we’re very happy,” Trump said.

Comey himself seemed to be addressing the latest developments in an Instagram message: “To paraphrase the Buddha – Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun; the moon; and the truth.”