Trump tweets about Russia probe spark warnings from lawmakers

This article is more than 12 months old

Lawmakers warn US President against tweeting about FBI investigations

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK A series of tweets by US President Donald Trump about the investigation into contacts between his campaign last year and Russia prompted concerns on Sunday among both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham saying Mr Trump could be wading into "peril" by commenting on the probe.

"I would just say this with the President: There is an ongoing criminal investigation," Mr Graham said on the CBS programme Face the Nation.

"You tweet and comment regarding ongoing criminal investigations at your own peril," he added.

On Sunday morning, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter that he never asked former FBI director James Comey to stop investigating Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser - a statement at odds with an account Mr Comey has given.

That tweet followed one on Saturday in which Mr Trump said: "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice-President (Mike Pence) and the FBI."

Legal experts and some Democratic lawmakers said if Mr Trump knew Flynn lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and then pressured Mr Comey not to investigate him, that could bolster a charge of obstruction of justice.

Mr Trump's attorney, Mr John Dowd, told Reuters on Sunday that he had drafted the Saturday tweet and made "a mistake" when he composed it.

"The mistake was I should have put the lying to the FBI in a separate line referencing his plea," Mr Dowd said.

"Instead, I put it together and it made all you guys go crazy. A tweet is a shorthand."

Mr Dowd said the first time the President knew for a fact that Flynn lied to the FBI was when he was charged.

He also clouded the issue by saying that then-Acting US Attorney-General Sally Yates informed White House counsel Don McGahn in January that Flynn told FBI agents the same thing he told Mr Pence, and that Mr McGahn reported his conversation with Ms Yates to Mr Trump. He said Ms Yates did not characterise Flynn's conduct as a legal violation.

Mr Dowd said it was the first and last time he would craft a tweet for the President.

"I'll take responsibility," he said. "I am sorry I misled people."

Ms Yates did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment, and a lawyer for Mr McGahn did not respond to requests for comment. The White House also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The series of tweets came after a dramatic turn of events on Friday in which Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations last December with Russia's then-ambassador in Washington, Mr Sergei Kislyak, just weeks before Mr Trump entered the White House.

Flynn also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors delving into contacts between the President's inner circle and Russia before Mr Trump took office.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, believes the indictments in the investigation so far and Mr Trump's "continual tweets" pointtowards an obstruction of justice case.

"I see it most importantly in what happened with the firing of director Comey. And it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That is obstruction of justice," Ms Feinstein said on NBC's Meet the Press.- REUTERS