Donald Trump began his Thursday with a barrage of tweets defending Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, after Mr Flynn’s attorneys released documents that they believe show the FBI tried to entrap him.
A note, written in January 2017 by then-counterintelligence director Bill Priestap, ponders how to approach Mr Flynn’s questioning. “What’s our goal?” asks Mr Priestap. "Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?"
“If we get him to admit to breaking the Logan Act, give facts to DOJ & have them decide. Or, if he initially lies, then we present him [redacted] & he admits it, document for DOJ, & let them decide how to address it.”
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Mr Flynn, who in 2017 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, is considered by Mr Trump and many of his supporters to have been the subject of a witch-hunt by the FBI. The case is now being re-examined at the direction of the attorney general, Bill Barr; speculation has lately grown that Mr Trump is considering a presidential pardon for the disgraced general.
Thursday’s tweets cemented the impression that Mr Trump remains squarely on Mr Flynn’s side. “What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!”, he wrote. (He retweeted that tweet an hour later.)
Also in Mr Trump’s sights on Thursday was CNN, a news outlet he rails against on a regular basis. “[email protected] doesn’t want to speak about their persecution of General Michael Flynn & why they got the story so wrong. They, along with others, should pay a big price for what they have purposely done to this man & his family. They won’t even cover the big breaking news about this scam!” This Mr Trump retweeted later in the morning under the words “FAKE NEWS!”
CNN has in fact covered the story, under the headline “Handwritten note shows how FBI official approached key Michael Flynn interview”.
The president accompanied his messages with a storm of retweets, among them an unexplained, wordless video from Mr Flynn himself showing an American flag planted in a windswept, forested landscape (Mr Trump’s caption: “Great!”).
Others featured for their fury at the FBI’s treatment of Mr Flynn included various sympathetic conservative voices, including Fox News contributors and right-wing radio hosts, as well as several Republican members of Congress. The president shared a tweet from House whip Steve Scalise, who wrote that “the only ones who colluded with Russians were Hillary Clinton’s campaign & the DNC”. He did not cite any evidence for the claim.
Alongside his defence of Mr Flynn, Mr Trump also threw in a good word for his convicted former campaign adviser Roger Stone, who is awaiting sentencing on charges of witness tampering and lying to Congress.
“Does anybody really believe that Roger Stone, a man whose house was raided early in the morning by 29 gun toting FBI Agents (with Fake News @CNN closely in toe), was treated fairly,” he wrote. “How about the jury forewoman with her unannounced hatred & bias. Same scammers as General Flynn!”
At the sharp end of Mr Trump’s early morning mood, meanwhile, was former FBI director James Comey, whom the president has long considered a bitter enemy. “DIRTY COP JAMES COMEY GOT CAUGHT!”, he wrote, without providing any context.
Not all Mr Trump’s tweets were defences of his allies or attacks on his enemies; some were about himself. One retweet, this time from Arizona congressman Andy Biggs, was an image of the front page of the Arizona Republic newspaper from 6 February, after Mr Trump was acquitted in his impeachment trial. Mr Biggs’s tweet simply read “ACQUITTED FOR LIFE”.