President Trump has told associates in recent days that he believes he will soon be cleared in the Special Prosecutor’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election – an astonishing suggestion given the news that one of his former aides, Michael Flynn, has pleaded guilty to perjury and will cooperate with federal authorities investigating the matter, FOX Business has learned.
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The president made these statements on at least two separate occasions to two long-time associates over the past couple of weeks, people familiar with the matter said. One of those associates, who spoke to FOX Business on the condition of anonymity, said Trump emphatically stated that he was led to believe that the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, has all but officially concluded that the president is in no legal jeopardy in the Russian probe, and that he could be told of that in a time period that the president described as “soon.”
The president made similar remarks to a second associate, according to a person with knowledge of that conversation, and even suggested he would be cleared of any wrongdoing in the Russian inquiry before the end of the year.
In these conversations with associates, Trump was said to indicate that he was told by White House Counsel Ty Cobb that he was likely not to be charged in the Russian meddling probe, the person who spoke to Trump said.
The president didn’t say why he believed that he would be cleared imminently, this person said, adding that Trump was aware of the speculation swirling that Flynn would be charged in the probe when he made these statements.
One of the associates of the president said he told Trump not to be too sanguine about the Mueller probe; even if he may be cleared in the Russian probe, Mueller may flip witnesses like Flynn, to bring charges on matters outside the Russian meddling investigation, such as Trump’s private business dealings as a real estate investor and reality television star. These issues could also be part of the special prosecutors probe.
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A White House spokeswoman didn’t return repeated calls for comment on Trump’s statements to these people; Trump’s White House counsel, Cobb, also didn’t return calls for comment on this issue.
Trump, for his part, has been described by associates as both obsessed and incensed over the Russian probe, often terming it “fake news” and a conspiracy by Democrats and his enemies in the media to end his presidency. People close to Trump say has been long known to manufacture certain facts in order to make broader points, as well as engage in conspiracy theories. Before the campaign, he repeatedly claimed that former President Obama’s birth certificate was forged and as result, he wasn’t born a U.S. citizen, a requirement to be the president.
President Obama later produced his birth certificate which showed he was born in Hawaii.
Trump’s recent remarks are remarkable because they came amid continued speculation that Flynn, who served just days as his national security advisor but was a fixture of the president’s 2016 campaign and transition team, would be facing charges related the Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling into the election.
In October Mueller indicted Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, for money laundering involving foreign entities, and tax fraud. Unlike Flynn, Manafort has plead not guilty and at least for now isn’t cooperating with prosecutors.
On Friday, Flynn pleaded guilty to a single count of lying to federal authorities investigating the matter, and agreed to cooperate in their probe of others in the Trump orbit. He was ousted from his national security post after serving just 24 days in the administration for allegedly lying to Vice President Mike Pence about discussions he had with Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn’s cooperation in the probe represents a major turn in the investigation; It was former FBI director James Comey who said in a private meeting with the president, that he was asked by Trump to find a way not to charge Flynn in Russian-meddling inquiry.
Comey was later fired by Trump in May, one of the actions that led to the Justice Department’s appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate whether people inside the Trump campaign conspired with Russian authorities during the election, and whether they attempted to hide those activities.
In his plea agreement, Flynn admitted to having pre-inaugural discussions with Kislyak at the behest of people inside the Trump transition team. The plea agreement didn’t mention the president by name, but did say that Flynn received this direction from a “very senior transition” official.
In a statement following news of Flynn’s plea deal, Cobb said: “Today, Michael Flynn, a former National Security Advisor at the White House for 25 days during the Trump Administration, and a former Obama administration official, entered a guilty plea to a single count of making a false statement to the FBI.
“The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn. The conclusion of this phase of the Special Counsel's work demonstrates again that the Special Counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion.”