'FBI ruined Flynn's life for lying but let Clinton off, says Trump, as he backs child-sex-claim candidate
Lobbing new criticism at the special counsel's Russia investigation, US President Donald Trump said yesterday he feels "very badly" for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who last week pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about reaching out to the Russians on the president's behalf.
"I think it's a shame," Mr Trump said of Mr Flynn's situation, adding that it's "very unfair" and that Mr Flynn had "led a very strong life".
Mr Trump tried to contrast Mr Flynn's treatment with that of his Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, whom he said "lied many times to the FBI and nothing happened".
"Flynn lied and they destroyed his life," Trump said.
The FBI didn't conclude that Ms Clinton lied to agents, however. Former FBI director James Comey testified last year that agents found Ms Clinton to be truthful in her interview, telling a House committee that "we have no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI".
Mr Flynn is co-operating with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
Even as Mr Trump sought to minimise Mr Flynn's misdeeds, the Kremlin insisted that Mr Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador to the US had not influenced Russian President Vladimir Putin's response to sanctions imposed by Mr Trump's predecessor Barack Obama.
Mr Flynn was forced to resign in February following reports that Mr Obama administration officials had informed Mr Trump's team that Mr Flynn had discussed sanctions on Russia with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, a fact at odds with the public assertions of Vice President Mike Pence.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said yesterday it was "absurd" to suggest the phone conversation could have influenced Mr Putin's decision and added that "such requests couldn't have been passed on" to him.
Mr Trump, who spoke to reporters as he left the White House to head to Utah, unleashed a string of tweets over the weekend in which he criticised the FBI and raised questions about the federal investigation into Russian election meddling and possible ties to his campaign.
In one of his messages, Mr Trump again denied that he directed Mr Comey to stop investigating Mr Flynn.
Mr Trump questioned the direction of the federal law enforcement agency and wrote that after Mr Comey, who was fired by Mr Trump in May, the FBI's reputation was "in Tatters - worst in History!" He vowed to "bring it back to greatness".
The president also retweeted a post saying new FBI director Chris Wray "needs to clean house".
Former attorney general Eric Holder tweeted in response: "Nope. Not letting this go. The FBI's reputation is not in 'tatters'. It's composed of the same dedicated men and women who have always worked there and who do a great, apolitical job. You'll find integrity and honesty at FBI headquarters and not at 1600 Penn Ave right now."
Mr Trump seized on reports that a veteran FBI counterintelligence agent was removed from special prosecutor Robert Mueller's team last summer after the discovery of an exchange of text messages that were viewed as potentially anti-Trump. The agent, Peter Strzok, had also worked on the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mr Mueller, said Mr Mueller removed Mr Strzok from the team "immediately upon learning of the allegations". He would not elaborate on the nature of the accusations.
Meanwhile, the White House has given its biggest endorsement yet to Roy Moore, as the Republican party establishment rallied around the Senate candidate despite accusations over sexual misconduct with children. With a week to go before voting for the senate seat, Mr Trump tweeted "we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama".
Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, also rowed back on past criticism by saying "the people of Alabama" should decide the race.
Mr Moore, the firebrand Republican, has faced numerous allegations of inappropriate sexual contact with teenage girls, some as young as 14. He has denied all the claims and said he is the victim of a witch hunt.
With the Senate tightly balanced at 52 Republicans to 48 Democrats or independents, the outcome of the Alabama race has significant consequences for national politics.
Polls suggest that the race has tightened since the allegations emerged, with Mr Moore now in danger of losing the seat despite Alabama traditionally being ultra-safe Republican territory.
Mr Trump had remained silent on Mr Moore when the allegations first surfaced and Republican senators, including Mr McConnell, initially called on him to drop out.
However, in recent days senior Republicans have indicated their support for Mr Moore.
Mr Trump tweeted: "Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive tax cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama. We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, border wall, military, pro life, V.A., judges 2nd Amendment and more. No to [Democrat] Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer puppet!"
Mr Moore later claimed that Mr Trump telephoned to offer his support, suggesting in a tweet that the president had told him: "Go get 'em, Roy!"
He said: "Just got off the phone with President Trump who offered his full support and said he needs a fighter to help him in the US Senate."