By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would consider bringing his fired former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a key figure in the probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, back into his administration.
The president's comments, the latest in a string of remarks about Flynn, go beyond prior suggestions by Trump that the retired general could be in line for a presidential pardon.
"I would certainly consider it, yeah. I think he's a fine man," Trump told reporters, without specifying which role he might give to Flynn.
Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements in a charge brought by then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He is now insisting he did not lie and wants to back out of the plea.
Internal FBI documents turned over by the Justice Department on Wednesday showed FBI officials debated whether and when to warn Flynn that he could face criminal charges as they prepared for a January 2017 interview with him in the Russia probe.
Trump blamed Flynn's predicament on "dirty cops" and said the documents show Flynn was a victim.
"He's in the process of being exonerated. If you look at those notes from yesterday, that was total exoneration," Trump said.
Flynn left his White House position after only 24 days when he was found to have misled Vice President Mike Pence about his discussions with Russia's then-ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak. Trump said in 2017 that he fired Flynn because he had lied to Pence and the FBI.
Pence said during a trip to Indiana on Thursday that Flynn's actions may have been unintentional.
"I'm deeply troubled by the revelations of what appeared to have been investigative abuse by officials in the Justice Department. And we're going to continue to look into that very carefully," Pence said.
"My respect for General Flynn personally for his service to the country is undiminished. And I am inclined more than ever to believe that what he communicated to me back during the transition leading to our inauguration, that was unintentional and not - and that he was not attempting to misrepresent facts," he said.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Steve Holland and Alexandra Alper; Editing by Tom Brown and Daniel Wallis)