YORK (Reuters) - A series of tweets by U.S. President Donald Trump
about the investigation into contacts between his 2016 campaign and
Russia prompted concerns on Sunday among both Democratic and Republican
lawmakers, with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham saying Trump could be
wading into “peril” by commenting on the probe.
would just say this with the president: There’s an ongoing criminal
investigation,” Graham said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
“You tweet and comment regarding ongoing criminal investigations at your own peril,” he added.
Sunday morning, Trump wrote on Twitter that he never asked former FBI
Director James Comey to stop investigating Michael Flynn, the
president’s former national security adviser - a statement at odds with
an account Comey himself has given.
followed one on Saturday in which Trump said: “I had to fire General
Flynn because he lied to the Vice President (Mike Pence) and the FBI.”
experts and some Democratic lawmakers said if Trump knew Flynn lied to
the Federal Bureau of Investigation and then pressured Comey not to
investigate him, that could bolster a charge of obstruction of justice.
attorney, John Dowd, told Reuters in an interview on Sunday that he had
drafted the Saturday tweet and made “a mistake” when he composed it.
mistake was I should have put the lying to the FBI in a separate line
referencing his plea,” Dowd said. “Instead, I put it together and it
made all you guys go crazy. A tweet is a shorthand.”
Dowd said the first time the president knew for a fact that Flynn lied to the FBI was when he was charged.
also clouded the issue by saying that then-Acting U.S. Attorney General
Sally Yates informed White House counsel Don McGahn in January that
Flynn told FBI agents the same thing he told Pence, and that McGahn
reported his conversation with Yates to Trump. He said Yates did not
characterize Flynn’s conduct as a legal violation.
Dowd said it was the first and last time he would craft a tweet for the president.
”I’ll take responsibility,” he said. “I’m sorry I misled people.”
Yates did not respond to an email seeking comment, and a lawyer for McGahn did not respond to requests for comment.
The White House also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
series of tweets came after a dramatic turn of events on Friday in
which Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations
last December with Russia’s then-ambassador in Washington, Sergei
Kislyak, just weeks before Trump entered the White House.
also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors delving into contacts between
Trump’s inner circle and Russia before the president took office.
Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee,
said she believed the indictments in the investigation so far and
Trump’s “continual tweets” pointed toward an obstruction of justice
“I see it most importantly in what
happened with the firing of Director Comey. And it is my belief that
that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the
Russia investigation. That’s obstruction of justice,” Feinstein said on
NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“The president knew he
(Flynn) had lied to the FBI, which means that when he talked to the FBI
director and asked him to effectively drop this case, he knew that Flynn
had committed a federal crime,” Adam Schiff, senior Democrat on the
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told the ABC program
The Russia matter has dogged
Trump’s first year in office, and this weekend overshadowed his first
big legislative win when the Senate approved a tax bill.
was the first member of Trump’s administration to plead guilty to a
crime uncovered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into
Russian attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. election and potential
collusion by Trump aides.
Russia has denied meddling in the election and Trump has said there was no collusion.
who had been investigating the Russia allegations, was fired by Trump
in May. He told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee in June he
believed his dismissal was related to the Russia probe, and said Trump
asked him to end the investigation of Flynn.
never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News
covering another Comey lie!” Trump said on Twitter on Sunday.
CBS, Graham criticized Comey, saying he believed the former FBI director
made some “very, very wrong” decisions during his tenure. But Graham
also said Trump should be careful about his tweets.
“I’d be careful if I were you, Mr. President. I’d watch this,” Graham said.
by Roberta Rampton in Washington and Karen Freifeld in New York;
Additional reporting by David Morgan and Susan Cornwell in Washington;
Writing by Roberta Rampton and Caren Bohan; Editing by Mary Milliken and