Trump says he had to fire Flynn for lies but 'there was nothing to hide'
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday the actions of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn after the 2016 election were "lawful".
Flynn on Friday pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump's 2016 presidential election campaign.
"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!" Trump said in a tweet.
That was a turnabout from his initial explanations that Flynn had to go because he had not been straight with Mr Pence about those contacts.
It is unclear why Mr 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 has been portraying.
It is 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.
Flynn left the White House in February, only acknowledging that he had given an incomplete account to Mr Pence of his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
After Mr Trump forced Flynn out, he asked FBI Director James Comey to end the bureau's probe into the matter, according to Mr Comey's account. Mr Comey refused, and Mr Trump fired him too.
Mr Trump has been publicly dismissive of Mr Comey and of special counsel Robert Mueller's continuing investigation, and was often generous in his appraisal of Flynn, except to say his adviser could not stay in the job after misleading his vice president.
At the time, Mr Pence said Mr Trump was justified in firing Flynn because he had lied to him. Neither Mr Trump nor Mr Pence indicated concern then that the FBI had not been told the true story.
Mr Pence, who served as head of Mr Trump's transition, has not publicly commented on Flynn's plea.
White House officials did not respond to questions on Saturday about Mr Trump's altered explanation as to why he fired Flynn.