PRESIDENT Trump yesterday defended his former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI – by taking a swipe at 2016 election opponent Hillary Clinton and claiming she did the same thing.

“Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI, nothing happened to her,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “Flynn lied and they destroyed his life. I think it’s a shame.”

The Justice Department did not bring charges against Clinton over her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, and law enforcement officials have said they do not believe Clinton misled investigators. “We have no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI,” then-FBI director James Comey said during congressional testimony in July 2016.

Yet Flynn, who was forced out of the White House in February after less than a month on the job, pleaded guilty last week to charges of lying to the FBI about his pre-inauguration contacts with the US ambassador to Russia.

The retired Army lieutenant general also agreed to co-operate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his probe of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with Trump associates. The US intelligence community has accused Russia of orchestrating a campaign to hack of Democratic party emails and push fake news to influence the election in favour of Trump.

Flynn told the FBI – along with Vice President Pence and other Trump administration officials – that he did not speak with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak about economic sanctions that former President Obama slapped on Russia over its election interference. Flynn later admitted the issue did in fact surface.

When he fired Flynn in February, Trump cited his lies to Pence in February. In a tweet over the weekend, Trump also indicated he knew about his ex-aide’s lies to the FBI. One of his lawyers, John Dowd, later said he wrote that tweet and made a mistake because Trump did not know about the FBI at the time.

Mueller’s office is also investigating whether Trump sought to obstruct justice when he fired Comey in May. The former FBI director later testified that Trump asked him to go easy on Flynn, which Trump denied.

Trump spoke to reporters before beginning a day-long trip to Utah where he met with Mormon leaders in Salt Lake City, where he signed two proclamations shrinking federally protected lands. It marked the largest rollback of its kind in history, shrinking the size of two national monuments created by predecessor Barack Obama.

The Bears Ears National Monument will shrink to 220,000 acres from its current 1.5 million-acre size, and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will be cut in half to about 1 million acres, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said.

Trump’s decision to roll back federal protections marks an unprecedented use of presidential power to shrink the national monument designations made by two of his predecessors.

Trump said previous administrations overstepped their authority in declaring vast tracts of western lands off limits to use and development, abusing the “purpose, spirit and intent” of a century-old law known as the Antiquities Act. That law requires presidents to limit the monument designation to “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected”.

“These abuses of the Antiquities Act give enormous power to faraway bureaucrats at the expense of people who work here, live here, and make this place their home,” Trump said. “Because we know that people who are free to use their land and enjoy their land are the people who are most determined to preserve their land.”