In an attempt to control the fall-out from Michael Flynn pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, Donald Trump tried to equate Flynn’s actions with those of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty over the weekend and is now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian collusion with the Trump White House. Naturally, however, the President thought that Flynn had been treated “very unfair”.
“Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI”, Trump told reporters ahead of boarding Marine One for a trip to Utah. “Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied, and they destroyed his life. I think it’s a shame. Hillary Clinton, on the 4th of July weekend, went to the FBI, not under oath. It was the most incredible thing anyone’s ever seen. She lied many times. Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied, and it’s like they ruined his life. It’s unfair.” On Saturday Trump had also tweeted about the indictment, complaining that Flynn pleading guilty showed how the system was “rigged”.
Trump’s statement about Clinton is completely unsupported. After Clinton was informally interviewed by FBI in July over her use of a private email server, former director James Comey testified to the House Oversight Committee. “We have no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI,” Comey told House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), adding that in his opinion Clinton did not break the law in connection with his use of a private email server.
Trump’s relentless focus on Clinton amid the latest developments in the Russia investigation was mirrored on Fox News, which also chose to spend this weekend covering Hillary Clinton instead of Michael Flynn’s guilty plea. When Fox did decide to briefly cover the Flynn news, they tried to spin it as an indictment of the Obama administration. “[What Flynn’s charges] have to do with, interestingly enough, is this whole question about what was the Obama administration doing in monitoring members of team Trump?” asked Matt Schlapp, American Conservative Union president, on Fox. “That’s the real interesting part of this I want to learn more about.”
On Saturday night Trump tweeted that he had to fire Flynn because he had lied to the FBI and Vice President Pence. This, however, represents a startling change in the White House’s story — up until they’d said that Flynn had been only fired for lying to Pence. If Trump’s tweet is accurate, it would have meant that Trump knew Flynn lied to the FBI at the same time that he assured James Comey that Flynn had done nothing wrong. This, according to former Department of Justice official Matthew Miller, is tantamount to obstruction of justice.