The president’s fiery remarks represented Trump’s latest reaction to a cache of FBI records unsealed late Wednesday by a federal judge. The documents disclosed new details about the origins of the bureau’s criminal case against Flynn and suggested internal deliberation over how to approach the politically explosive investigation.
Trump had previously weighed in on the revelations online, firing off a remarkable series of nearly 30 tweets and retweets within a 12-hour time frame. Turning to social media as the number of Americans killed by the coronavirus surged beyond 60,000, the president excoriated former FBI Director James Comey, questioned the bureau’s current leadership, and fiercely defended Flynn.
“What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!” Trump tweeted, hours after criticizing CNN’s coverage of the Flynn case in a separate post just before midnight.
“[email protected] doesn’t want to speak about their persecution of General Michael Flynn & why they got the story so wrong. They, along with others, should pay a big price for what they have purposely done to this man & his family. They won’t even cover the big breaking news about this scam!” the president wrote. A spokesperson for CNN did not immediately return a request for comment.
Earlier in the evening, Trump shared stories from Fox News, the conservative online magazine The Federalist and the right-wing news website The Daily Caller that reported on the records. He also retweeted Thursday a short video posted by Flynn which the retired Army lieutenant general and former Defense Intelligence Agency chief appeared to have filmed himself, showing an American flag fluttering above a lush green, hilly landscape.
“Imagine having your life and reputation ruined by rogue US govt. officials. Then years later when the plot finally comes to light the first thing you do is post an American flag,” Donald Trump Jr. wrote in a tweet shared by his father. “This is the guy they wanted you to believe was a Russian asset.”
Those were just some of the many messages the president circulated on his Twitter feed Wednesday night and Thursday morning, including several posts chastising Comey — whose firing in May 2017 resulted in the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller later that month — and even a tweet targeting FBI Director Christopher Wray, whom Trump tapped to head the bureau in June 2017.
“What did FBI Director Christopher Wray know and when? And why has he been covering for these scum bags?” wrote Katie Pavlich, editor of the conservative news outlet Townhall and a Fox News contributor.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of Trump’s most ardent congressional attack dogs, also homed in on the director Thursday. “Where is Christopher Wray? Why didn’t we learn any of this from him? Thank goodness for Sidney Powell and Bill Barr, or we would have never got this information,” the congressman told “Fox & Friends,” referring to Flynn’s lawyer and the attorney general, respectively.
The four pages of FBI documents, provided to Flynn’s defense attorneys last week, have been seized upon by the president’s defenders and his allies in conservative media in a continued effort to paint the Flynn investigation and Mueller’s probe as an excessive, politically motivated ambush on the White House by federal law enforcement officers.
“He was unfairly and unjustly targeted by ‘Deep State’ bureaucrats that clearly, with all the evidence now to prove it, wanted to take him down,” Fox News host Sean Hannity said of Flynn on his Wednesday night broadcast.
Flynn served as national security adviser for just 24 days before he was dismissed in February 2017 for a lack of candor about conversations he had with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential transition period before Trump’s inauguration. He reportedly misled Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials about the details of those talks.
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies,” Trump tweeted in December 2017. “It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
Pressed Thursday on whether his decision to oust Flynn was a mistake, Trump said, “What I wish I had was all the information, where they were out to get him. … They were trying to force him to lie.”
One page of handwritten notes contained in the documents — dated the same day Flynn was interviewed by the FBI on Jan. 24, 2017 — appeared to indicate a debate over how forthcoming to be with him or others at the White House about the nature of the bureau’s investigation, warning that if “we’re seen as playing games, WH will be furious.”
The notes also reflect discussion among FBI officials about whether confronting Flynn with a lie in real time would be helpful to their investigation. “What is our goal? Truth/admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” the notes read.
Flynn eventually pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one felony count of lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russia’s ambassador, and a federal judge in February indefinitely postponed his sentencing. But Trump said Thursday that Flynn “is in the process of being exonerated. If you look at those notes from yesterday, that was total exoneration.”
The president also complained Thursday about Stone’s arrest in January 2019 and the Republican operative’s conviction in November of that year for impeding congressional and FBI investigations into connections between the Russian government and Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“Does anybody really believe that Roger Stone, a man whose house was raided early in the morning by 29 gun toting FBI Agents (with Fake News @CNN closely in toe), was treated fairly,” Trump tweeted. “How about the jury forewoman with her unannounced hatred & bias. Same scammers as General Flynn!”
Stone was sentenced in February to just more than three years in prison after the president praised the attorney general for “taking charge” of the matter. Following Trump’s criticism of prosecutors’ initial sentencing recommendation, the Justice Department submitted a revised filing that offered no specific term for Stone’s sentence — prompting the four attorneys who shepherded his prosecution to either resign or step off the case.