President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both made comments Thursday indicating they were fully willing to welcome former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn — who is in a protracted court battle to withdraw his guilty plea — back with open arms.
Trump told reporters at the White House he would “certainly consider” bringing Flynn back into the administration, after firing him in February 2017 for lying to Pence about his conversations with a Russian official.
About an hour earlier, Pence had said that he was “inclined to believe” that the false statements Flynn had made to him were “unintentional.”
Their comments came after Flynn’s lawyers filed new court documents related to their efforts to have Flynn’s case dismissed. Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the Russia conversations.
Trump and his allies have seized on the documents to claim that Flynn was the victim of an entrapment plot by the FBI. However, they cite internal planning that is typical of a criminal investigation, former federal prosectors told TPM, and contain no evidence that Flynn did not, in fact, lie to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian official.
The claims by Flynn’s legal team of prosecutorial misconduct have bubbled for several months, and so far, they have been rejected by Flynn’s judge.
But the legal arguments are believed by many to be just an effort to win a pardon from Trump, and that effort has now reached a fever-pitch with Trump and Pence both fulling embracing the idea that Flynn should be exonerated.
On Thursday, the vice president’s pool reporter asked if Flynn’s firing — which the President said, at the time, was because Flynn lied to Pence — was appropriate.
“I know what Gen. Flynn told me and I’m more inclined to believe it was unintentional than ever before,” Pence said, while claiming there may have been ” investigative abuse by officials in the Justice Department.”
In some ways, the drama over what Flynn told Pence his late 2016 conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak kicked off key events that led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.
After Pence publicly claimed that Flynn did not discuss Russian sanctions with Kislyak, top Justice Department officials reached out to the White House to notify them that the claim was false and that the FBI had interviewed Flynn.
Pence himself found out about the DOJ’s notification from a Washington Post story and then sought the underlying evidence the Justice Department had that contradicted Flynn’s account, according to the Mueller report.
After White House officials reviewed the materials, they concluded that Flynn, per Mueller’s report, “could not have forgotten the details of the discussions of sanctions and had instead been lying about what he discussed with Kislyak.”
Pence also said publicly, after Flynn pleaded guilty to lying in December 2017, that he knew Flynn had lied to the President when the President fired him.
“What I can tell you is I knew that he lied to me,” Pence said then, “and I know the president made the right decision with regard to him.”