White House counsel Donald McGahn reportedly informed U.S. President Donald Trump in January that he believed former White House National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn had lied to the FBI or Vice President Mike Pence. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating if Trump obstructed justice by allegedly asking former FBI Director James Comey to drop a federal investigation into Flynn.
On Dec. 2, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016. The former adviser disclosed to the Mueller probe that the Trump transition team had directed him to contact Kislyak during the presidential transition.
"I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right," Flynn said in a statement, according to NPR.
On Jan. 26, acting Attorney General Sally Yates told McGahn that there was evidence Flynn had lied to the FBI about his contact with Kislyak and that he was vulnerable to blackmail by the Russian government. Yates was dismissed five days later for refusing to defend Trump's executive order on travel, The Washington Post reports.
On Feb. 13, Flynn resigned after reports of Yates' warning to McGahn emerged. The White House stated that the adviser was asked to step down for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with Kislyak.
On Dec. 4, a source familiar with Flynn's resignation told CNN that McGahn had informed Trump of Yates' warning before Flynn resigned. McGahn allegedly told the president that he believed Flynn had misled either the FBI or the vice president and that he should be fired. The source added that McGahn did not tell Trump whether or not Flynn had broke a law or if Flynn was under investigation.
"They didn't think they were in a position to decide whether he had committed a crime," the source said.
White House special counsel Ty Cobb responded to the report with a statement.
"I believe the facts exonerate the President and I'm not going to debate these important issues between the White House and the special counsel in the press," Cobb said.
On May 9, Trump dismissed Comey from the FBI. On June 8, Comey testified before Congress that Trump had asked him to not investigate Flynn on Feb. 14, Politico reports.
Comey asserted before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Trump had told him during a private meeting: "'I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go ... I hope you can let this go.'"
"General Flynn at that point in time was in legal jeopardy," Comey said. "There was an open FBI criminal investigation of his statements in connection with the Russian contacts ... I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct."
On Dec. 3, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California asserted that there was growing evidence that Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey.
"I see it in the hyper-frenetic attitude of the White House, the comments every day, the continual tweets," Feinstein told NBC News. "And I see it most importantly in what happened with the firing of Director [James] 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."
On Dec. 4, Trump's personal lawyer, attorney John Dowd, told Axios that a sitting president "cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution's Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case."