Donald Trump sparked controversy yet again when he refused to rule out pardoning his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
“I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet,” the president said earlier today before going to speak to the FBI, according to the Hill. “We’ll see what happens. Let’s see.”
However, White House lawyer Ty Cobb later said they were not considering a pardon for the ex-national security adviser.
Earlier this month, Flynn, of course, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.
Flynn’s guilty plea revolved around lies he told investigators last January when asked about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during Trump’s transition.
Flynn is now reportedly cooperating with the investigation into whether the Trump campaign cooperated with Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump refusing to rule out a pardon sparked backlash because Flynn won’t have to keep cooperating with the investigation if he knows he’ll be pardoned. Some took Trump’s vague statement as a signal that if Flynn helps him, his family, or others in the administration, Trump will pardon him. Pardoning Flynn, though, would also bolster the obstruction accusations against Trump.
The Hill also notes that Trump refused to tell the reporters when, exactly, he learned that Flynn had lied to the FBI. That has become a big question in the Russia scandal.
Trump fired Flynn just 24 days into his job as national security adviser. He claimed he fired him because Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence. However, when Flynn pleaded guilty, Trump tweeted that he fired Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI.
If Trump knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI, then he could have obstructed justice. According to James Comey, Trump asked him to drop the investigation into Flynn right after he fired the national security adviser.
By tweeting that he fired Flynn because he lied to the FBI, Trump basically admitted to trying to stop the investigation while knowing that Flynn committed a crime. However, Trump’s lawyer John Dowd later said that he was the one who wrote the tweet, not the president.
Trump also tweeted about how unfair it was that Flynn was punished for lying to the FBI while Hillary Clinton wasn’t.
And while talking to reporters today, Trump once again denied that there was any collusion during the 2016 election.
Right now, it’s unclear whether Trump will pardon Flynn and just when he knew his former national security adviser had lied to the FBI. But by refusing to rule it out, it only raises more questions about the president and the investigation.