“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
Donald Trump really needs to give the Miranda Warning a good, long think before he tweets again, given that he’s currently under investigation for — among other things — possible obstruction of justice. Though it may already be too late, given the latest @RealDonaldTrump utterance on the president’s favorite social media platform.
I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2017
The tweet amounts to Trump’s first comment on Michael Flynn, his former National Security Advisor. Flynn, who was fired just 24 days after Trump’s inauguration for — as Trump himself said on Saturday — lying to both Vice President Mike Pence and the FBI, is now cooperating with special investigator Robert Mueller, as we learned on Friday.
While it will likely be some time before we hear Flynn’s full story, the deal he struck with Mueller boils down to a single count of lying to the FBI. It’s a nothing charge in relative terms; Flynn is on the hook for much more serious crimes according to most accounts, and his guilty plea strongly suggests he’s leveraged what he knows to buy his freedom, and perhaps his son’s freedom as well.
If you’re looking for more context, there’s an excellent “quick and dirty” run down of Flynn’s plea agreement and what it might mean on the popular Lawfare Blog.
Trump’s latest tweet is problematic, then, because he’s openly admitted to knowing about Flynn’s FBI lie. That hasn’t been the case before.
Flynn’s guilty plea relates to a Jan. 24, 2017 meeting with the FBI in which he lied about his contacts with Russia. He then resigned from his National Security Advisor post several weeks later, on Feb. 13.
During a subsequent Feb. 16 press conference, Trump fielded a number of questions about Flynn’s exit. He said that he’d asked for Flynn’s resignation, explaining: “I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence.”
With Saturday’s tweet, Trump is admitting for the first time that he knew about Flynn lying to the FBI as well. That’s important because Trump later asked former FBI director James Comey — as Comey himself testified — to drop the Flynn investigation.
In short: Trump knew Flynn was on the hook for a crime (lying to the FBI), and he asked the man in charge of the bureau investigating that crime (Comey) to drop it. That would seem to be obstruction of justice, and Trump’s tweet admits it.
Unsurprisingly, political Twitter immediately picked up on this and rushed to respond with legal insight, snark, and unrestrained jubilation.
Sitting in an airport bar when Trump’s confession comes across a screen. Guy says, He just tweeted it out, gets a laugh. You cannot say that life isn’t weird.
— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) December 2, 2017
Just to be clear, if Trump had said this privately and some reporter got wind of it, it would a VERY big story. It is no less a big deal for taking place in public on Twitter.
— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) December 2, 2017