President Donald Trump said Thursday that Michael Flynn, his former national security advisor and a convicted felon, had been "tormented" by "dirty cops" at the FBI.
Trump's remarks, made during a meeting about the coronavirus at the White House, came after he sent more than a dozen tweets and retweets supporting Flynn and decrying the FBI's handling of his criminal case.
"They were trying to force him to lie," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, appearing to reference new documents that were revealed in Flynn's case Wednesday night.
"General Flynn is a fine man," Trump said. "You don't get to where he is by being bad ... he's in the process of being exonerated."
Before his meeting on the Covid-19 crisis with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Trump engaged in a Twitter blitz about Flynn, the FBI and its former director James Comey.
"What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!" Trump tweeted.
"DIRTY COP JAMES COMEY GOT CAUGHT!" Trump said in another post.
Trump fired Comey in May 2017 and later told NBC's Lester Holt that the Russia probe was on his mind when he decided to terminate Comey. As a result, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump's rant about Flynn's treatment, which he has complained about for years, came as his administration continues to grapple with the economic strife and rising death toll caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 1 million people in the United States have tested positive for Covid-19, and nearly 61,000 have been killed by the disease, data from Johns Hopkins University show. Jobless claims in the U.S. for the last six weeks topped 30 million, according to the latest Labor Department figures.
But Trump's focus Thursday morning appeared to be centered more on the FBI and Flynn, whom the president has recently suggested could be granted a full pardon.
In the Oval Office on Thursday, Trump did not directly say if he would pardon Flynn.
Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador before Trump's inauguration. Flynn replaced his legal team last year and is now trying to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing he is the victim of misconduct by prosecutors.
Late Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan unsealed new documents that were handed over to Flynn's lawyers. The documents include copies of emails from veteran FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, whom Trump has singled out repeatedly in his attacks against the agency.
Also included in the unsealed documents was a handwritten note of unclear origin, part of which reads: "What's our goal? Truth/Admission or get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?"
Trump tweeted and retweeted a series of posts about Flynn's case, starting Wednesday night and continuing well into Thursday. The tweet storm mirrored coverage on Fox News and Fox Business Network, both of which are regularly cited and praised by Trump.
The slew of tweets claimed Flynn was "framed" and that his criminal case should be dropped.