President Donald Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to kill an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to a report published Tuesday evening by the New York Times and confirmed by the Washington Post and several other outlets.
Instead, both papers reported, Trump asked Comey to prioritize investigations into leaks to the press — suggesting jail time for reporters who publish classified information.
Flynn resigned as Trump’s national security adviser in February, less than a month into the job, after media reports showed that he discussed U.S. sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak after the 2016 election, then misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of those discussions.
Before Flynn’s resignation, the Justice Department warned the White House that those conversations and the subsequent deception could give Russia leverage over Flynn, the Washington Post reported in February.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Trump told Comey during a meeting the day after Flynn resigned, according to the Times.
The allegation is contained in a memo Comey wrote immediately after the incident, parts of which a Comey associate reportedly read to the Times.
“I agree he is a good guy,” Comey told Trump of Flynn, according to the Times, without responding to Trump’s request to end the investigation.
The White House disputed the reported memo in a statement to the Times, saying Trump respects law enforcement and never asked anyone, including Comey, to close an investigation.
“This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey,” the White House statement said.
The FBI declined to comment, according to the Times, but acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the Senate last week that there haven’t been any efforts to impede the FBI’s investigation.
Comey reportedly created similar memos for all of his conversations with Trump, on the phone and in person, according to the Times. ThinkProgress has filed a public records request for any memos Comey wrote as FBI director summarizing his conversations with Trump.
The news of the Comey memo comes less than a week after Trump fired Comey seemingly without warning. The administration’s justification for the shocking move has changed numerous times over the past several days.
Initially, the White House said Trump fired Comey over his handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server. However, Trump clearly tied the move to the Russia investigation in an interview with NBC News.
“In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said, I said to myself, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story,” Trump said at the time.
Pres. Trump on firing Comey: "I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story." https://t.co/hxqM1LI6BE
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) May 11, 2017
Asked if he would seek the Comey memos, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC,) said that responsibility lies with the New York Times.
“They need to get the document and get it released,” Burr told reporters.
Meanwhile, as reaction begins to pour in from members of Congress, Democrats continue their calls for a special prosecutor in the Russia probe—joined by a single Republican.
“At best, President Trump has committed a grave abuse of executive power,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told the New York Times of the latest report. “At worst, he has obstructed justice.”
UPDATE: House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz says he will subpeona the memo.
.@GOPoversight is going to get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.
— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) May 16, 2017