U.S. President Donald Trump Friday left open the possibility of a presidential pardon on behalf Michael Flynn, who Trump fired after serving just over three weeks as his national security adviser because Flynn lied about his interactions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.
“I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet,” Trump told reporters outside the White House before departing for the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy in nearby Quantico, Virginia. Trump added: “We’ll see what happens. Let’s see. I can say this: when you look at what’s gone on with the FBI and with the Justice Department, people are very, very angry.”
Following Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey while he led the agency’s probe into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the the 2016 election, the Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller to lead a special counsel probe into the matter.
Earlier this week, the Justice Department disclosed hundreds of text messages between two FBI officials on Mueller’s team of investigators that revealed an anti-Trump bias, prompting some, particularly Republicans, to question the non-partisan nature of the law enforcement agency and its investigation into Russia.
The number two person at the Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, defended Mueller Wednesday in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee and said he had no reason to dismiss him.
“It’s a shame what happened to the FBI but we’re going to rebuild the FBI,” Trump said. “It’s going to be bigger and better than ever but it is very sad when you look at those documents and how they’ve done that is really, really disgraceful and you have a lot of very angry people who are seeing it.”
After agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors, Flynn pleaded guilty on December 1 to one felony count of lying to the FBI last January about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. The conversations occurred weeks before Trump’s inauguration.
Amid mostly Democratic speculation Flynn’s plea might prompt the Trump administration and its allies to attempt to prematurely end Mueller’s probe and curtail several congressional investigations, Trump did not rule out the possibility of pardoning Flynn.
The president has the authority to issue pardons, as he did in August when he pardoned Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt charges stemming from the hard-line tactics he used when pursuing undocumented immigrants.
An individual who has been convicted of a federal crime and wants to be pardoned must submit a request to the Justice Department, which assists the president in exercising his authority to pardon. The Justice Department informs pardon seekers to wait at least five years after their conviction date or their release from prison, whichever is later, prior to submitting a pardon application.
Arpaio did not, however, submit an application to the Justice Department and his pardon took effect before he was sentenced.