Trump Asked Comey To Shut Down Flynn Investigation
President Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to close down the federal investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn just one day after Flynn was let go.
An associate of Comey's who is familiar with the matter confirms that the former FBI director memorialized the conversation with Trump in a memo he wrote immediately after their Oval Office conversation on February 14. The news was first reported by the New York Times.
Comey — who was fired one week ago by Trump amid the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia — wrote in the memo that Trump asked for the the investigation of Flynn to go away — to which Comey gave a non-response response. Then he left and wrote detailed notes, according to the source.
"It was an ask" not a command, the source said. A small number of FBI agents were made aware of the memo and the conversation, and agents kept working on the investigation.
Flynn was fired on February 13 after it was revealed he had misled Vice President Pence about his conversations with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak about U.S. sanctions recently imposed on Russia; Flynn had been speaking with Kislyak during the transition period between Election Day and Trump's inauguration.
Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was also fired by Trump after she refused to defend his travel ban, testified last week before Congress that she had told the White House more than two weeks before Flynn was asked to resign that he had been "compromised with respect to the Russians" because he had misled Pence.
A White House official denied The Times' report in a statement:
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 FBI has no comment on The New York Times story.
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who took over last week after Comey was fired, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week that, "There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date."
Comey has a history of memorializing controversial conversations and issues — he did so during the George W. Bush administration, where he served as deputy attorney general, with respect to those controversial "enhanced interrogation techniques" used by the CIA on terror detainees in the wake of 9/11. He sent memos to his chief of staff that surfaced years later in The Times.
Trump fired Comey last week, with the White House initially claiming it was because of a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that concluded Comey had mishandled the investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's private email server.
But Trump told NBC's Lester Holt days later that he was going to fire Comey regardless of Rosenstein's memo, and that is was, indeed, in part, because of the ongoing Russia investigation, which Trump has dismissed as a "hoax."
"When I decided to just do it [fire Comey]," Trump told Holt. "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."
Democrats immediately pounced on The Times' report and called on their GOP colleagues to push for the truth from the White House.
"Concerns about our national security, the rule of law, the independence of our nation's highest law enforcement agencies are mounting," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor shortly after the Times story broke. "The country is being tested in unprecedented ways. I say to all of my colleagues in the Senate, history is watching."
"If these reports are true, the President's brazen attempt to shut down the FBI's investigation of Michael Flynn is an assault on the rule of law that is fundamental to our democracy. At best, President Trump has committed a grave abuse of executive power. At worst, he has obstructed justice," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a statement.
Geoff Bennett contributed.