Comey Memo Alleges President Trump Asked the FBI Director to Drop Flynn Investigation
Corey Uhden, Politics Contributor
The New York Times is reporting, and other news agencies have confirmed, that James Comey authored a memo alleging that President Trump asked that he drop an ongoing investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, before Comey was dismissed as director of the bureau last week.
Flynn resigned from his post as national security adviser on Monday, February 13th. According to the article, Trump held a meeting with senior national security officials the following day and afterward asked Director Comey to stay behind to discuss the prospect of criminal charges against his former national security adviser. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go,” Comey quoted the president as saying when they were the only two left in the Oval Office that afternoon. Trump relayed to Comey as he has in public, “Flynn is a good guy,” and asserted he had done nothing wrong.
The FBI had interviewed Flynn on January 24th regarding his late December phone call with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. Reports detailing the interview alleged Flynn was not truthful and denied discussing sanctions when in fact he had. It is not clear if President Trump was speaking only to that concern or attempting to pressure Comey to drop any investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. For their part, the White House has pushed back on the claims allegedly made in Comey’s memo: “this is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”
Comey, however, would insist otherwise. The Times reporter, Michael Schmidt, notes that Comey is known for keeping meticulous notes as “part of a paper trail” documenting important moments in his life that may be called into question later. He had begun keeping regular notes on his conversations with President Trump out of concerns that he may attempt to impede the bureau’s investigations. Comey shared the memo with senior officials and staff but kept it from investigators to avoid influencing their work. It is not clear if Comey shared the contents or copies of the memo with other officials in the Department of Justice.
Last week, acting Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe testified that there had been “no effort to impede our investigation.” It isn’t clear if Mr. McCabe was aware of the conversation on February 14th or Comey’s memo, or if he was talking about the Russian interference investigation and not a separate criminal investigation of Michael Flynn.
If the reporting is accurate, President Trump may have attempted to impede the investigation into his former national security adviser, or Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, or both. However, it’s unclear if the president was intentionally trying to interfere in the FBI’s investigations at all. As Fox News Reporter James Rosen points out, “there is a difference” between the president saying ‘I hope you can drop this’ and the president ‘ordering’ Comey to end the investigation. Comey’s subsequent firing, however, might offer more insight into the president’s intent.
Members of Congress in both parties immediately called on Comey to testify. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said he will subpoena the memo and Democrats ramped up their public calls for a special prosecutor, which would be empowered to investigate the president’s conduct. Some raised the specter of impeachment. There is currently a vacancy for the position of Director of the FBI and, at the very least, much of the focus will be on who Trump nominates and whether they can resist any undue pressure from the White House.
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