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Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Thursday that following the release of new FBI documents, he is "more inclined to believe" that former national security adviser Michael Flynn unintentionally lied to him in 2017 about the nature of his conversation with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Why it matters: Flynn was forced to resign for misleading Pence and later pleaded guilty in the Mueller investigation to lying to FBI agents about speaking to Kislyak about Russian sanctions, which the Obama administration had imposed for election interference.

The big picture: Flynn is now seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming that prosecutors acted in "bad faith" and sought to entrap him.

  • As part of that process, prosecutors have turned over documents from the FBI, including a new batch on Wednesday that show officials discussing whether their "goal" was "to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired."
  • President Trump has said he "strongly considering" a full pardon for Flynn, and spent much of Wednesday night and Thursday morning raging on Twitter about the treatment that Flynn has received.
  • On Thursday, Trump said that he would consider bringing Flynn back into the administration, claiming his former national security adviser is "essentially exonerated."

What they're saying: Pence told reporters that he will leave the decision on whether to pardon Flynn up to the president.

“I think Gen. Michael Flynn is a patriotic American who served with great distinction in the armed forces. ... I’m deeply troubled by the revelations of what appears to have been investigative abuse by officials in the Justice Department and we are going to continue to look into that very carefully.”"

Flashback: In December 2017, Pence told CBS News, "What I can tell you is that I knew that [Flynn] lied to me. And I know the president made the right decision with regard to him."

Go deeper

Pence calls Chief Justice John Roberts a "disappointment"

Combination images of Vice President Mike Pence and Chief Justice John Roberts. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images/I Senate Television via Getty Images

Vice President Pence told the Christian Broadcast Network in an interview to be broadcast Thursday that Chief Justice John Roberts "has been a disappointment to conservatives."

The state of play: The conservative Roberts has this year sided with the Supreme Court's more liberal justices on abortion, LGBTQ discrimination and the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired general Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star general Lloyd Austin as his nominee for Defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 27 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.

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