James Comey
Former FBI Director James Comey. AP Photo/Alex Brandon


President Donald Trump reportedly asked former FBI Director James Comey to end the bureau’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn during an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo written by Comey on which The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Trump fired Comey one week ago, in what the White House initially said was based on the recommendations of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump said days later, however, that he had been thinking about “this Russia thing” when he fired Comey, whom he called a “showboat” and a “grandstander” in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt last Thursday. He tweeted Friday that “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

The Times reported that Comey wrote the memo immediately after meeting with Trump on February 14, one day after Flynn was asked to resign. The document “was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence an ongoing investigation.”

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey,  according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” He also asked Comey to consider jailing reporters for publishing classified information, according to the Times.

Trump asked Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to leave the room before asking Comey to drop the Flynn probe, according to reports from the Times and CNN. Their meeting came weeks after Trump reportedly asked Comey for his loyalty, twice, during a dinner on January 27.

While the Times did not obtain the memo, portions of the document were read to a Times reporter by an associate of Comey who had a copy, the paper said. ABC, CNN, and The Washington Post independently confirmed the content of the memo, which the Post said was “two pages long and highly detailed.”

If it’s found to be true that Trump asked Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation into Flynn, “that would be very damaging,” Keith E. Whittington, an expert on presidential impeachment and a politics professor at Princeton University, told Business Insider.

Comey’s memo fills in a number of details around Trump-Russia ties and what the president’s motives were in firing the former FBI director, Whittington said. If Congress pursues those details, depending on what they find, this latest development may “open the door” to exploring the groundwork for presidential impeachment, he added.

The FBI is investigating Flynn’s contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak as part of its probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The bureau interviewed Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak in January as part of that probe.

Michael Flynn
Michael Flynn. Mario Tama/Getty Images


The acting director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that the FBI probe into Russian interference in the US election was “highly significant,” contradicting the White House’s assertion that it was a low priority for the bureau.

But he also said that “there has been no effort [by the White House] to impede our investigation to date.” It is unclear if he knew about Comey’s memo, but the Times said it was shared with senior FBI officials.

A White House official said in a statement that Trump “has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country,” but he “has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn.”

“The President has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations,” the statement continued. “This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the President and Mr. Comey.”

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said that the report, if true, amounted to “obstruction of justice.”

“That is a crime, and that is something that is prosecuted often in the federal courts here,” Toobin said.

The revelation that Trump suggested an end the FBI’s probe into Flynn comes one week after former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that she warned White House counsel Don McGahn about Flynn’s conversations with Russia’s ambassador Sergey Kislyak in January so that the Trump administration “could take action.” The Justice Department, which oversees the FBI, was concerned that Flynn could “be blackmailed by the Russians,” Yates told the committee.

Flynn was asked to resign roughly 18 days after Yates first warned McGahn about his conversations with Kislyak. Democratic Sen. Al Franken asked during last week’s hearing if Yates had any idea why Trump did not fire Flynn immediately, but she replied that she could not comment.

‘Enough is enough’

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday that Congress should be given any tapes or notes related to the conversations Trump had with Comey before he was fired last week, “and subpoena them if necessary.”

“Enough is enough,” Schiff said. “Congress really needs to get to the bottom of this.”

When asked by CNN host Wolf Blitzer if Congress is getting closer to the impeachment process, Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he would “have to say yes.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in response to the latest bombshell report that “the country is being tested in unprecedented ways.

“I say to all of my colleagues in the Senate, history is watching,” he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that “if reports are true, Trump’s attempt to shut down the FBI’s Flynn investigation is an assault on the rule of law.”

Other Democratic lawmakers swiftly weighed in on the report. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said “if true, this is another piece to the puzzle and it does not look good for the White House.”

“Yesterday, secrets to the Russians. Today, obstruction of justice? When does this end?” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse tweeted.

“Memos, tapes, testimony, appt of special prosecutor – all are needed ASAP to get to the bottom of this cascading crisis,” Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy tweeted.

“We are well past the tipping point,” Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted. “When will the GOP put country over party?”

Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month about his handling of the investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email server and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Multiple reports emerged in the days after Comey’s firing that said Trump was incensed at the former FBI Director for implying in the hearing that Clinton may have won if the FBI hadn’t reopened its probe into her emails on October 28.

Comey also confirmed in the open — and televised — hearing that the FBI was still investigating whether there was “any coordination” between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Comey had not allowed the White House to preview his testimony, which Trump and his aides considered “an act of insubordination,” according to Reuters. The New York Times echoed that report, saying Trump was broadly irked by his inability to gain assurances of loyalty from Comey.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters on Tuesday that he invited Comey to testify in a public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I think it would be good for him if he did. It would be good for the country,” Graham said.

As reported by Business Insider