President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer John Dowd drafted the president’s Saturday morning tweet that stated he fired former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lying not only to Vice President Mike Pence but also to the FBI, Dowd told ABC News Saturday.
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” Trump tweeted at 9:14 a.m. on Saturday. “He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty ImagesGen. Michael Flynn, center, with his attorney, Robert Kelner, right, leaves Federal Court in Washington, DC, December 1, 2017 after pleading guilty to one count of lying to the FBI about his back-channel negotiations with the Russian ambassador.
The apparent admission by the president — that he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI at the time of his firing — seems to add a potentially explosive new dimension to the ongoing special counsel investigation.
If true, why then would Trump ask the FBI director to go easy on Flynn, as former FBI Director James Comey later testified? The message set off renewed talk of potential evidence of obstruction of justice.
But now Dowd, corroborated by a second source familiar with the matter, said the tweet was not drafted by the president himself but rather by the lawyer — and done so in a “sloppy” manner.
The White House, which has insisted that tweets from the president should be taken as official statements, has declined to comment.
Susan Walsh/AP PhotoPresident Donald Trump passed Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, left, and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as he arrives via Air Force One at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Feb. 6, 2017.
The public acknowledgment by Dowd means it is not clear whether the president did in fact know Flynn had lied to the FBI at the time of firing him — though one source familiar with the president’s thinking said Trump did not know. Administration officials have declined to comment on that matter, as well.
The unusual clarification by Dowd –- revealing that someone other than Trump himself had authored a tweet from his official account — could also be an attempt to tamp down on potential legal exposure from the message.
The president did not respond to shouted questions Saturday evening about Flynn’s firing as he returned home from campaign fundraisers in New York City.