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'There was nothing to hide!': Trump says ex-advisor's actions during transition were 'lawful'

Trump again reiterated that there was “no collusion” with Russia ahead of the US presidential election last year.

Trump addressing reporters today.
Trump addressing reporters today.
Image: Shawn Thew UPI/PA Images

Updated at 17.55

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump said he had to fire his former national security advisor Michael Flynn “because he lied” – but said that his actions during “during the transition were lawful”.

“There was nothing to hide!” he tweeted.

Earlier today, the President insisted again that there no collusion between his campaign and Russia during his bid for the White House.

This comes a day after Michael Flynn pledged to cooperate with special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s meddling into the election. On Friday, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts he had with the Russian ambassador.

Trump also said he was “not worried” about what Flynn might tell Mueller. Flynn also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts he had with the Russian ambassador.

The 58-year-old retired three-star Army general is the most senior figure indicted in special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s sprawling investigation into Russian interference in last year’s election.

Flynn’s admission that he had secret discussions in December 2016 with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak – with direction from top Trump officials – set Washington abuzz with speculation over who in the Republican leader’s inner circle might next be in Mueller’s sights.

Citing unnamed sources, The Washington Post reported that one of the “very senior” presidential transition team officials advising Flynn to contact the Russian envoy was Trump’s son-in-law and senior aide Jared Kushner.

Flynn’s guilty plea, on a federal charge of making false statements to investigators, came with a pledge to cooperate with Mueller, whose focus goes beyond possible collusion with Russia to shady business dealings and whether Trump himself tried to thwart the investigation.

The White House rejected the idea that Flynn could implicate “anyone” else, as ABC News reported that Flynn would testify that Trump ordered him to reach out to Moscow during the campaign — news that sent Wall Street shares tumbling.

ABC later issued a clarification, saying its source said Flynn would testify that Trump ordered him to reach out to Moscow after the November 2016 election.

“I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong,” Flynn said in a statement after a brief appearance in federal court in the US capital.

“My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the special counsel’s office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

The charge normally carries up to five years in prison, but under the terms of the plea deal, Mueller says he has recommended a lighter sentence of only up to six months in jail, court filings show.

Since the first allegations of Russian interference last year, and despite reports from top US intelligence officials concluding it happened, Trump has dismissed the notion as “fake news” and an excuse for Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s loss at the polls.

“Since the first day I took office, all you hear is the phony Democrat excuse for losing the election, Russia, Russia, Russia,” he tweeted last week.

But yesterday’s news made clear that Trump’s inner circle could increasingly come under the microscope.

For Trump, the focus is on whether he has tried to stifle the investigation, including by firing FBI chief James Comey in May, which could draw obstruction of justice charges, the same charges that forced president Richard Nixon from office in 1974.

On social media Comey posted a biblical verse: “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Democratic Senator Mark Warner told CNN: “The one individual that still seems to deny that this is a major issue is Donald Trump. And I just kind of wonder why.”

- With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha. © AFP 2017

Read: Big win for Trump as US Senate backs bill to dramatically lower corporate tax

Read: Ex-Trump adviser pleads guilty to lying to FBI about contacts with Russian diplomat

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