The New York Times Company
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday responded to the Justice Department’s decision to drop criminal charges against Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, by delivering his most extensive and aggrieved remarks on the Russia investigation since the coronavirus paralyzed the nation.
Speaking to Fox News, Trump praised Attorney General William Barr for the dramatic action announced Thursday, which nullified a major case prosecuted by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump said Barr had acted wisely in assigning a U.S. attorney to look into the case, in which Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in 2017 about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to Washington during the 2016 presidential transition. Trump and his allies had long called Flynn’s prosecution unjust and said it should be dropped.
“So he came back and he said, ‘This is an innocent man,’” Trump said of the federal prosecutor, Jeff Jensen of the Eastern District of Missouri.
Trump said the outcome reflected well on Barr, who has expressed skepticism of the Mueller inquiry.
“He’s the opposite of Robert Mueller, because you look at Mueller — that was purely corrupt,” Trump said.
The president’s commentary was a kind of flashback to a pre-coronavirus reality — when the Russia investigation and the president’s impeachment dominated the discourse. It was the latest sign that Trump is turning his thinking away from the national effort to contain the virus — which is still spreading, with cases and deaths growing by the day — to other matters, including his reelection campaign.
Trump made the remarks in a nearly hourlong appearance on one of his favorite Fox News Channel programs, “Fox and Friends.” The pandemic did not come up until nearly 20 minutes into the interview.
Trump also added more detail to the story of the White House valet who tested positive for coronavirus. He said that the aide, who is a U.S. Navy service member, had not worked for several days before Tuesday, when he was “in the room” with the president for an unspecified amount of time before discovering that he was carrying the virus.
“I don’t think any contact,” Trump added of his interactions with the aide.
The valet was among staff members who serve the president meals. Trump said that those staff members have begun wearing masks, although many other White House officials and staff — including the president himself — do not.