Is Donald Trump tweeting his way out of the presidency?
He’s never been shy to express his views in 140 (now 280) characters, but to many, the U.S. president’s latest tweet amounted to an admission of obstruction of justice — a crime that played a part in the impeachments of former presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he fired Michael Flynn from the post of national security adviser back in February because Flynn lied to the FBI about his contacts with a top Russian diplomat.
It’s the first time Trump has ever suggested that he knew Flynn lied to the FBI.
He previously explained the sacking only by citing Flynn misleading vice-president Mike Pence about communicating with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak over sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration.
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Indeed it wasn’t until three days after Flynn’s firing that the Washington Post first reported that Flynn lied to the FBI.
Trump’s tweet also suggests he knew about Flynn lying to the FBI when he pressured then-FBI director James Comey to be lenient towards Flynn, as was claimed by Comey in his testimony to the Senate intelligence committee.
“He is a good guy and has been through a lot,” Trump reportedly told Comey in February. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy.”
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Experts and politicians say Trump’s tweet may amount to an admission of obstruction of justice, a crime that could potentially topple his presidency.
Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, said Trump may have shot himself in the foot.
Susan Hennessey, national security law fellow at the Brookings Institution, offered a similar take, although she warned that it would take a whole lot more than a tweet for Trump to be at risk of impeachment.
“He is acknowledging awareness of the commission of a federal offence at the time he sought to intervene to prevent its investigation,” Hennessey added.
“That doesn’t get you all the way to corrupt purpose (or knowledge of a qualifying existing investigation) but it does do a fair amount of leg work.”
Numerous Democrat politicians also weighed in, including California Congressmen Adam Schiff and Ted Lieu.
Trump’s tweet comes despite him reportedly being advised by White House staffers to resist the temptation to weigh in on the Flynn situation on Twitter, according to the New York Times.
The potential self-incrimination was made all the more incredible by the Washington Post’s claim that the tweet was drafted by none other than Trump’s lawyer John Dowd.
It’s unclear now why Trump would cite lying to the FBI as a reason for firing Flynn. Doing so suggests the president knew at the time that Flynn had done something that is against the law, and therefore the investigation could not be as frivolous as he’s been portraying.
It’s also unclear how he would know that, if information about Russian contacts had not reached him, as he has been implying in his own defence.
— With a file from the Associated Press