White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders won't say why Trump bashes 'rat' Michael Cohen yet praises convicted liar Michael Flynn

Key Points
  • White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders hedged when asked why President Donald Trump won't critcize convicted liar Michael Flynn, his first national security advisor who is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.
  • Trump has called his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen a "liar" and a "rat" for cooperating after Cohen's own crimes.
  • Cohen says he facilitated hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal to keep them quiet about alleged affairs with Trump.
Michael Flynn in court, December 16, 2018
Source: Art Lien

They are the best of Michaels, they are the worst of Michaels.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn't say when asked Tuesday why President Donald Trump seems to have a double standard when it comes to his first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, and his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Trump has not criticized the convicted liar Flynn — who is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller — even as he brands his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen a "liar" and a "rat" for cooperating after Cohen's own crimes.

Sanders opened a rare White House press briefing Tuesday, shortly after a planned sentencing hearing for Flynn was postponed, by saying "we wish General Flynn well."

And she repeatedly claimed that Flynn's admitted crime and other conduct are not related to Trump.

That's despite the fact that Flynn's conversations with Russia's ambassador related American foreign policy — and that Flynn lied to FBI agents in the White House days after being sworn in as Trump's top national security aide.

It's also despite the fact that Flynn has admitted that while working on Trump's campaign while he was secretly acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the nation of Turkey.


Sanders early Tuesday had blasted the FBI for having agents interview Flynn on Jan. 24, 2017 without a lawyer and without warning him that it would be a crime to lie to them.

"The FBI broke every standard protocol that they have," Sanders said on Fox News.

"He was certainly ambushed ... the FBI, that we know, had clear political bias." The White House has repeatedly claimed the investigation into possible collusion by Trump campaign with Russian interference in the 2016 campaign had been motivated by political animus against Trump. 

Hours after Sanders' interview aired, Flynn and his defense lawyers appeared at a sentencing hearing in Washington, D.C., federal court.

That hearing was postponed to give Flynn a chance to cooperate further with prosecutors in a new case related to his work for Turkey.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that Flynn could have been criminally charged in that case for allegedly conspiring with two former associates to act as unregistered agents for Turkey as they sought to influence American opinion and politicians on the status of Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in Pennsylvania. Gulen who is blamed by Turkey's president for a failed coup attempt, and Turkey has sought his extradition over the opposition of the U.S. Justice Department.

Flynn and his lawyers assured a judge Tuesday that he had not been entrapped by the FBI into committing his admitted crime as some have suggested.

Sanders later was asked whether she wanted to "revisit" her comments on Fox News given that happened in court with Flynn. 

"No," Sanders said at the White House briefing. "We don't have any reason to walk that back."

Flynn has met with Mueller's office and other federal investigators at least 19 times since pleading guilty last December.

Meanwhile, Trump has called Cohen a "liar" and a "rat" for cooperating with Mueller and other officials probing Trump.

The president also has suggested that the practice of "flipping" targets of criminal investigation like Cohen to get them to offer evidence about other lawbreaker "almost ought to be illegal."


But Trump has not criticized Flynn for cooperating with prosecutors, or for lying to the FBI—even after Mueller said that Flynn helped uncover contacts between Trump's presidential transition team and Russian government officials.

Asked why the president has not been as keen to blast Flynn as he has been to slam Cohen, Sanders did not directly answer.

"We know Michael Cohen to be a liar on a number of fronts and the president's opinion is extremely clear on that front," Sanders said. "I don't see any reason to go beyond that comment at this point."

Cohen pleaded guilty to financial crimes, campaign finance crimes, and lying to Congress about the details of an aborted plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The campaign finance crimes related to hush-money payments paid two women who claim to have had affairs with Trump. The White House denies he had sex with either woman. 

However, legal observers have said that  the Cohen case could create a legal threat to the president because of Cohen's claims that he paid off one of the women at the direction of the president.