Another day, another bombshell development out of the Trump White House, with The New York Times reporting that former FBI Director James Comey documented ways he felt the president was improperly influencing an ongoing investigation back in February. It was not the investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. It was the one centered on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Mr. Flynn has been the subject of controversy and inquiry over undisclosed funds he received for speaking engagements from three Russian companies, and his lobbying Turkish activities during the 2016 election, not signing the White House ethics pledge. The Trump transition also knew that he probably was going to register as a foreign agent. Mr. Flynn is one of the factors that keeps the Russian allegations alive, though no concrete evidence has been found to suggest that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian intelligence against Hillary Clinton. Subpoenas for business records were issued to associates of Mr. Flynn last week.
According to the Comey memo, Trump tried to get the former FBI director to drop the investigation, telling Mr. Comey that Flynn is “a good guy,” and that he hopes he can let this matter go. This will surely bring about allegations that the Trump White House engaged in obstructing of justice, an impeachable offense. The president also told Mr. Comey that he should consider jailing reporters who report on classified information. Mr. Comey also drafted memos on every phone call and meeting he had with President Trump. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member for the House Intelligence Committee, said that Mr. Comey should come back to Congress to answer more questions relating to this matter [emphasis mine]:
The existence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.
Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.
Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.
Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.
Mr. Comey had been in the Oval Office that day with other senior national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When the meeting ended, Mr. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.
Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.
After writing up a memo that outlined the meeting, Mr. Comey shared it with senior F.B.I. officials. Mr. Comey and his aides perceived Mr. Trump’s comments as an effort to influence the investigation, but they decided that they would try to keep the conversation secret — even from the F.B.I. agents working on the Russia investigation — so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.
Rep. Adam Schiff: This is "another disturbing allegation that the President may have engaged in some interference” https://t.co/xPj8VXTILo— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 16, 2017
The Times added that there were fears within the FBI on how they could corroborate the contents of Mr. Comey’s memos until the president alluded to the existence of tapes. Right now, House Republicans are heading for the bunkers, avoiding the press. As for the existence of the memo, National Review’s Charles Cooke noted that the House has subpoena power to review it—and that they should. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) also said that it’s “inescapable” that Mr. Comey has to come back for more testimony on the existence of this memo.
House Republicans are ducking right now. BIG time.— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) May 16, 2017
As others have noted, Congress can find out if this story is true by subpoenaing the memo. It should.— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) May 16, 2017
Anyone who has followed Comey's career knows he's a diligent contemporaneous note-taker and emailer on important events and internal debates— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) May 16, 2017
Sen. Marco Rubio: "it is inescapable now" that Comey must be called before Congress to testify about this newly revealed memo.— Paul McLeod (@pdmcleod) May 16, 2017
Last night, The Washington Post reported that President Trump divulged classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week, which once again sent the Trump White House in to crisis mode, denying the story as reported. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that no classified sources or methods were disclosed.
Keep in mind, as Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin noted, that Times reporter Michael Schmidt, who wrote this piece, is also the one who broke the story that Hillary Clinton had a private email server from which she used to conduct all of her official business while serving as secretary of state. He has good sources. Why didn’t we know about this memo until now? Over to you, Mr. Morrissey:
Because he was still FBI director and it would have been inappropriate to release them. Now that he's been fired and publicly attacked ... https://t.co/E2ccclAUeB— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) May 16, 2017