Donald Trump could face significant new trouble arising from the Russia investigation, with a new report suggesting that the president may have instructed former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to lie to the FBI earlier this year.
Flynn just pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia, and reports indicate that he is now working with special counsel Robert Mueller on the investigation. That could pose some major problems with Trump if it turns out that the president had anything to do with his lying to the FBI, which is what a new report from NBC News suggests could be under investigation.
The report claims that Mueller is digging into what happened during an 18-day period after White House officials were told that Flynn was susceptible to Russian blackmail. The questions could point to obstruction of justice by President Trump, two people with knowledge of the investigation told the news outlet.
To that end, Mueller’s team has reportedly conducted a series of interviews with people inside Trump’s inner circle, including White House Counsel Don McGahn and others working in the West Wing. Mueller is reportedly looking into interactions that may have taken place each day in the nearly three weeks it took Trump to fire Flynn after learning about his interaction with Russia and blackmail risk.
As Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine pointed out, Trump’s instruction to Flynn to lie to the FBI might explain why Flynn took such large legal risks with his actions.
“It would explain why the White House took so long to fire him, why Trump asked James Comey to let Flynn off the hook and then fired him when he failed to promise to do so, and why Trump continued to signal his affection for Flynn even afterward,” Chait wrote.
Reports within the last two weeks indicated that Mueller’s investigation has shifted away from actual collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign — which was the original tack of the probe — and focused more on whether there was obstruction of justice after the fact. If proven, Trump could face possible indictment, which is expected to become fuel for impeachment hearings.
While the latest reports could indicate massive trouble on the way for Donald Trump, the president continues to deny any collusion with Russia and has called the investigation a witch hunt.