Trump asked FBI’s Comey to drop Flynn probe – NYT

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NEW YORK, My 17 (APP): US President Donald Trump asked former FBI
Director James Comey in February to end the federal investigation into the alleged ties between former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russia, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Comey wrote in a memo shortly after the meeting that Trump told him,
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” the Times said.
The meeting took place Feb. 14, one day after Flynn resigned, according
to the newspaper, which reported that Comey’s memo was part of an effort to create a paper trail documenting what he saw as Trump’s improper influence on the investigation.
Taken at face value, according to experts, the disclosures about the
Comey memo appear to provide the clearest sign yet that Trump tried to pressure the FBI and the Justice Department over the Russia investigation.
The stunning new developments triggered immediate claims from Democrats
that Trump was guilty of obstructing justice and extreme concern from Trump’s Republican allies on Capitol Hill.
Denying the version of events in the memo, the White House said in a
statement that, “While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president 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. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey,” the statement added.
Trump dismissed Comey last week citing his handling of the FBI
investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while at the State Department.
The dismissal sent shockwaves through Washington, with critics accusing
Trump of trying to thwart the FBI investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the US presidential election and his possible collusion with the Kremlin.
Meanwhile, Comey’s memo says he did not respond to Trump about the
probe, but agreed with him that Flynn is “a good guy.”
White House officials stressed that acting director Andrew McCabe told
lawmakers last week that “here has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.”
The bombshell report deepened the crisis surrounding Trump’s surprise
firing of Comey last week, at the same time the White House is struggling to contain separate fallout from the president’s alleged disclosure of highly classified information to Russian diplomats.
It provided ammunition to lawmakers and others accusing Trump of trying
to influence the outcome of the federal investigation into whether Trump associates colluded with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 election.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are clamoring for Comey to come tell his side
of the story, either behind closed doors or publicly.
“He needs to come back before the Congress and share with the public
what conversations he had with the president that may bear on whether there was any effort to obstruct the investigation or impede it in any way,” House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff, a Democrat, told reporters after a closed-door briefing with CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Tuesday.
The committee made a bipartisan announcement last week that it will
perform “rigorous oversight” to prevent any potential political interference into the bureau’s investigation.
Comey declined an invitation to brief the Senate Intelligence Committee
behind closed doors on Tuesday, but is reportedly open to a public airing.
The firestorm over Comey’s dismissal has played out with little word
from the director himself, save a brief letter to the FBI workforce that said “a president can fire an FBI director for any reason.”
Lawmakers hope he provides testimony amid continued fallout over the
circumstances surrounding his ouster.
White House officials initially said that Comey’s firing was related
to his handling of the Hillary Clinton email server investigation, not the bureau’s investigation of possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia during the election.
But Trump later undercut that explanation, telling NBC News that “this
Russia thing with Trump” was on his mind when he fired Comey.
“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, “You know,
this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,” he said.
Talk of the potential of obstruction bubbled up last Friday, when Trump
appeared to warn Comey against speaking about their conversations in a tweet that suggested recordings exist of the talks.
“James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our
conversations before he starts leaking to the press,” he tweeted.
But Trump’s warning has apparently not deterred Comey. And the probe
into Flynn also appears to be ongoing.
A federal grand jury issued subpoenas for business records related to
Flynn, CNN reported last week.
Trump fired Flynn after it was revealed he misled senior administration
officials, including Vice President Pence, about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about U.S. sanctions against Moscow.
Federal investigators are also reportedly looking into Flynn’s paid
lobbying for Turkey.