Special counsel Bob Mueller is investigating whether President Donald Trump directed disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn to lie to the FBI, NBC News reports.
According to the report, Mueller is particularly interested in why Flynn was allowed to stay in his top-level job for 18 days after Trump and White House officials learned from former acting Attorney General Sally Yates that Flynn was caught speaking with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak by surveillance.
Mueller “appears to be interested in whether Trump directed him to lie to senior officials, including Pence, or the FBI, and if so why,” NBC reports.
“If Trump knew his national security adviser lied to the FBI in the early days of his administration it would raise serious questions about why Flynn was not fired until Feb. 13, and whether Trump was attempting to obstruct justice when FBI Director James Comey says the president pressured him to drop his investigation into Flynn,” the report explains.
This is a big story. Even before Flynn’s apparent cooperation with the investigation, Mueller was reportedly looking into whether Trump obstructed justice in his firing of FBI Director James Comey. This adds a new wrinkle to the timeline.
It also raises more questions that the Trump White House has avoided. Why was Flynn, a person who was deeply compromised by the Russians and committed a federal felony in lying to the FBI about his contacts with Kislyak, allowed to stay in a top administration for 18 days after the acting attorney general warned the White House?
The answers to these basic questions could raise the stakes in the investigation significantly. If Trump purposely allowed Flynn to stay knowing he lied to the FBI, and then urged Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn before ultimately firing Comey, that would be a pretty strong case for obstruction of justice.
Of course, the answers to these questions are perfectly knowable, but the Trump team is staying suspiciously mum.
“Trump’s legal team and senior White House aides are refusing to say when and how the president first learned that Flynn had lied to the FBI,” NBC News reports. “White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has repeatedly referred questions to Dowd about when Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI. Dowd has declined multiple requests to answer that question.”
According to the report, Mueller has asked witnesses, including White House Counsel Don McGahn, to walk through each day that Flynn remained on staff after Yates’ warning.
“Some of those interviewed by Mueller’s team believe the goal is in part to determine if there was a deliberate effort by President Trump or top officials in the West Wing to cover up the information about Flynn that Sally Yates… conveyed to McGahn,” NBC News reports.
For what it’s worth, Trump and/or his attorney posted a tweet last week that suggested Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired him.
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies,” Trump posted in a tweet later attributed to Dowd. “It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2017
Former DOJ official Matthew Miller said the tweet was tantamount to admitting he was guilty of obstruction of justice.
Oh my god, he just admitted to obstruction of justice. If Trump knew Flynn lied to the FBI when he asked Comey to let it go, then there is your case. https://t.co/c6Wtd0TfzW
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) December 2, 2017