Trump to pardon Michael Flynn
Donald Trump will reportedly pardon his former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Michael Flynn would be one of several people Trump will pardon before he leaves the White House on January 20, the Axios news service reported, citing unnamed sources.
The New York Times backed up Axios’ report, saying a person familiar with the discussions said Trump has told aides that he plans to issue a pardon to Flynn.
Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian diplomat during the presidential transition in late 2016.
Flynn has since become a hero figure on the pro-Trump right, cast as a decorated patriot victimised by a politically motivated Russia “hoax” investigation of Trump. Flynn changed his legal team and began seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming he never lied to investigators.
In late September, a lawyer for Flynn told a judge that she had recently spoken to Trump, and asked him not to pardon her client.
The lawyer, Sidney Powell, has appeared alongside lawyers for Trump, including Rudy Giuliani, who are pressing their unfounded case that widespread voting fraud cost Trump the presidential election.
After Powell floated particularly wild theories about supposed election plots, Giuliani and another lawyer representing the Trump campaign, Jenna Ellis, said in a statement that Powell “is not a member of the Trump legal team”.
Past departing presidents have issued pardons and commutations near the end of their terms. Former President Bill Clinton drew harsh criticism for pardoning a wealthy Democratic donor in his final White House hours.
Democrats and legal experts fear that Trump will exercise his pardon power with a brazenness that shatters past precedent.
Trump has already commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, another associate ensnared in the Russia investigation who was convicted on seven felony counts and was to begin a 40-month term in federal prison.
With The New York Times
Trump approves highest level security briefing for Biden
Donald Trump signed off on Tuesday (Wednesday AEDT) on giving Joe Biden the United States’ most classified intelligence, the latest sign the President is accepting the transition of power even as he vows to fight the election result.
Biden will now get the Presidential Daily Brief, a top-secret document that includes high-level intelligence about US military and security operations around the world. Just a handful of people are authorised to see it.
Giving the incoming president access to the is the most high-profile part of the transition and seen as key to the orderly transfer of presidential responsibilities to a new leader.
Biden had been receiving intelligence briefings as a presidential candidate, as part of a longstanding tradition to ease the transition of power.
But Trump’s refusal to concede the presidential race complicated Biden’s ability to receive the more sensitive presidential briefing before the office in charge of the transition process formally acknowledged Biden as the apparent winner on Monday.
Trump has described moves to begin the transition process as “preliminary” and has continued a barrage of tweets claiming without evidence that the election was rigged and that he won.
Trump denies he has conceded the election to Biden.
Top US official cancels trip to Taiwan
The cabinet-level head of the US Environmental Protection Agency has postponed a visit to Taiwan due to “pressing” priorities at home, removing a potential source of friction with Beijing.
China, which claims the democratic island as its own, reacted with anger to Andrew Wheeler’s planned trip, which would have been the third visit by a senior US official since August.
“Due to pressing domestic priorities at home, Administrator Wheeler’s visit to Taiwan has been postponed,” agency spokesman James Hewitt said.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it “was a pity” that the visit was not going ahead, adding that it welcomed future high level trips by US officials.
Beijing was furious when US Health Secretary Alex Azar visited Taipei in August, followed by Undersecretary of State Keith Krach in September, sending fighter jets near Taiwan each time.
Donald Trump ramped up support for Taiwan during his administration. Taiwan has moved to shore up ties with President-elect Joe Biden’s t