President Trump defended his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Monday for lying to the FBI – by bashing 2016 election opponent Hillary Clinton and claiming she did the same thing.
"Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI, nothing happened to her," Trump told reporters at the White House. "Flynn lied and they destroyed his life. I think it's a shame."
The Justice Department did not bring charges against Clinton over her use of a private email server while she was secretary of State, and law enforcement officials have said they do not believe Clinton misled investigators. "We have no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI," then-FBI director James Comey said during congressional testimony in July 2016.
Yet Flynn, who was forced out of the White House in February after less than a month on the job, pleaded guilty last week to charges of lying to the FBI about his pre-inauguration contacts with the U.S. ambassador to Russia.
The retired Army lieutenant general also agreed to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his probe of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with Trump associates. The U.S. intelligence community has accused Russia of orchestrating a campaign to hack of Democratic party emails and push fake news to influence the election in favor of Trump.
Flynn told the FBI – along with Vice President Pence and other Trump administration officials – that he did not speak with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about economic sanctions that former President Obama slapped on Russia over its election interference. Flynn later admitted the issue did in fact surface.
When he fired Flynn in February, Trump cited his lies to Pence in February. In a tweet over the weekend, Trump also indicated he knew about his ex-aide's lies to the FBI. One of his lawyers, John Dowd, later said he wrote that tweet and made a mistake because Trump did not know about the FBI at the time.
Mueller's office is also investigating whether Trump sought to obstruct justice when he fired Comey in May. The former FBI director later testified that Trump asked him to go easy on Flynn, which Trump denied.
Trump spoke to reporters before beginning a day-long trip to Utah.
The president is scheduled to meet with Mormon leaders and deliver a speech on public lands during his visit to Salt Lake City. Trump is expected to announce plans to shrink the size of two national monuments in Utah created by predecessor Obama.