- The White House on Tuesday seemed to imply President Donald Trump does not care if people closely associated with him break the law by lying to the FBI, as long as the president is not implicated in any crimes in the process.
- Former national security adviser Michael Flynn last December pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
- Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen in late November pleaded guilty to lying to Congress.
- The difference in the president’s dispositions toward Flynn and Cohen could not be more stark, and it seems to be motivated by the fact Cohen implicated Trump in crimes and Flynn did not.
The White House on Tuesday seemed to imply President Donald Trump does not care if people closely associated with him break the law by lying to the FBI, as long as the president is not implicated in any crimes in the process.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn last December pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts he had during the presidential transition period with Sergey Kislyak, who was Russia’s ambassador to the US at the time. Additionally, Flynn admitted to lying about lobbying work he did on behalf of the Turkish government.
Flynn also lied to Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials about the nature of his communication with the Russian diplomat, which is why he was ultimately fired.
Addressing the matter at a press briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Maybe [Flynn] did do those things but that doesn’t have anything to do with the president directly.”
Trump had wished Flynn well in a tweet on Tuesday morning as his former national security adviser headed to court for a sentencing hearing.
Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn. Will be interesting to see what he has to say, despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign. There was no Collusion!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2018
Sanders told reporters at the briefing it’s “perfectly acceptable” for Trump to make positive comments about Flynn despite the fact he’s admitted to lying to the FBI.
“It’s perfectly acceptable for the president to say positive things about someone while we wait for the court’s determination,” Sanders said.
Sanders said there were “certainly concern” about Flynn’s activities, but maintained the president was not linked to them.
This came not long after US District Judge Emmet Sullivan ultimately agreed to delay Flynn’s sentencing.
Meanwhile, the White House press secretary defended the president for referring to Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, as a “rat.”
Cohen is a “known liar,” Sanders said.
Why hasn't Trump called Flynn a "rat"? He's met with Mueller's team 19 times and offered "substantial" cooperation… @PressSec says Cohen is a known liar.
(Flynn was fired for, and is pleading guilty, to lying.) pic.twitter.com/ivZlGSC9QI
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) December 18, 2018
Cohen in August pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes in the Southern District of New York, including campaign-finance violations linked to payments he made to two women who said they had affairs with Trump.
In open court, Cohen said Trump directed him to make the payments and that he did so in order to influence the 2016 presidential election. In short, Trump was implicated in campaign-finance violations by Cohen.
Federal prosecutors in a recent court filing endorsed Cohen’s implication, saying he’d made the illegal payments “in coordination with and at the direction” of Trump.
In late November, Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his involvement in a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, saying he’d misled lawmakers about the duration of discussions on the ultimately failed real-estate deal. This came as part of a new plea deal with the special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s leading the investigation into Russian election interference.
Cohen said the discussions on the plan lasted until June 2016, after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee for president, and he briefed Trump and his family members on the deal multiple times.
Cohen’s lawyers, in a sentencing memorandum submitted in late November, said he was “in close and regular contact” with Trump’s lawyers and White House staff leading up to his false congressional testimony last year.
The lawyers said Cohen’s false testimony was catalyzed by him being “a loyal ally and then-champion of Client-1, to support and advance Client-1’s political messaging.” Client-1 is believed to be Trump.
Similarly, Mueller in a sentencing memo filed earlier this month said Cohen “admitted he told these lies – which he made publicly and in submissions to Congress – in order to minimise links between the Moscow Project” and Trump.
Mueller’s memo said that in the process of cooperating Cohen “described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries, while continuing to accept responsibility for the false statements contained within it.” Additionally, the memo said Cohen offered “relevant and useful information concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017-2018 time period.”
In short, Cohen’s lawyers claimed he was in touch with the White House about his plans to lie to Congress, and prosecutors appear to have corroborated that claim.
Cohen last week was sentenced to three years in prison for the nine crimes to which he’s pleaded guilty, including those in which he’s implicated Trump.
Trump vehemently denies any involvement in illegal activity and has called his former personal lawyer a “liar” and a “weak person.”
Flynn and Cohen both told lies that landed them in serious legal trouble.
The primary difference is that Cohen’s crimes and related lies implicate Trump, and that seemingly explains the stark contrast in the president’s dispositions toward his two former employees.
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