An associate of former F.B.I. Director Comey has described a memo to the New York Times written by Comey, which details how Trump asked Comey on Feb. 14, 2017, to end the investigation into Michael Flynn. The memo was written shortly after a meeting that Comey had with President Trump in the Oval Office in which Comey says that the Trump said, “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.” This is the first concrete evidence of the president trying to influence the Department of Justice’s and F.B.I.’s investigation into people associated with his campaign and their connection to the Russian government.
Comey reportedly did not respond to Trump’s wish that he end the DOJ’s and F.B.I.’s investigation into Flynn, but did say “I agree he is a good guy.” During this meeting, which took place the day after Flynn was fired for lying to Vice president Pence about the content of a call between Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, Trump also “told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong.”
The White House denies the version of the conversation that Comey describes in his letter. The statement reads, “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.”
What is important to note is that The New York Times reports that “An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.” So the content of the memo should be taken seriously.
While the New York Times does not have an actual copy of the memo, one of Comey’s close associated has read part of the memo to one of their reporters. According to this associate of Comey Trump was also angered by the leaks from the F.B.I. and even suggested that Comey “should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information.” Jokingly or not it is very serious that the president would say such a thing, especially as a reporter was recently arrested after repeatedly asking Secretary Price a question. Secretary Price later praised the police’s actions.
The revelation that Trump directly asked the then Director of the F.B.I. to stop the bureau’s investigation into Michael Flynn is not the only example of how the president has acted in ways that could impede with or influence the investigation into associates of his campaign. The memo is only one in a series of notes by Comey in which he details “what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation.” Some of the improper behavior from the president has shown is repeatedly asking Comey whether he, Trump, is personally under investigation and Trump asking Comey to pledge his loyalty to him, something which Comey, of course, could not do.
Another prominent way that the president has tried to in some way affect or at least show his dismay with the investigation is by firing Director Comey. The administration initially said that the reason for his firing was because of Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and referred to a letter written by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein in which Rosenstein criticizes Comey’s behavior during the investigation. This story was quickly contradicted by the president himself who told NBC’s Lester Holt that he fired Director comedy due to his feeling that the Russia investigation is “is a made-up story.” While the president is legally allowed to fire the F.B.I. Director, it raises a lot of suspicions as he has now actually admitted that he fire the person in charge of the investigation into his own campaign’s ties with an adversary government that worked very hard to influence ethe U.S. election. He also threatened Comey a few days ago tweeting,
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
However, it looks like Trump is the one that has to worry about what Comey has to say about these conversations, and not the other way around.
Even more troubling is that he just admitted on Twitter that he disclosed confidential information to the same adversarial government during a meeting with Russias foreign minister and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, yes the same person that Michael Flynn was fired for giving misleading information about a conversation that he had with Kislyak. Sergey Kislyak is also a known Russian spy as well as the person that Attorney General Sessions failed to tell the Senate that had met during Trump’s campaign which led to him recusing himself from the Russia Investigation.
As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
Despite the president tweeting that he had “the absolute right to” share this information with the Russian government, he did not. This was not U.S. intelligence, but rather information that the U.S. had received from an ally and the sharing of this information puts the source of it at risk. Not to mention how much this damages all of the United States’ intelligence sharing. Who is going to want to give sensitive information to a president who apparently cannot keep from bragging about it to Russia? It is hard to look past the fact that Trump during his campaign repeatedly attacked Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information and said that this was one of the reasons why she could not be trusted with the presidency, only to himself reveal highly classified information the Russian government.
The same sources that told the New York Times about the content of this memo also say that Comey has notes of all his interactions with the President. If these show further evidence of the president of the United States directly trying to influence the investigation into his campaign’s connection to Russia can’t be known right now but judging by the president’s complete inability to keep out of this investigation it would not be surprising. The latest developments in the endless saga that is Trump and Russia only further cements how important the investigation is.