President Donald Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to shut down an investigation into the actions of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn a day after Flynn’s ouster, according to a New York Times report Tuesday.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey, according to a memo written by Comey shortly after the Oval Office meeting, the Times reported. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
The memo appears to provide direct evidence that Trump tried to influence the FBI’s investigation into links between Trump’s inner circle and Russian officials.
The White House on Tuesday denied the report, saying “the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation. . . . This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the President and Mr. Comey.”
According to the Times, Comey wrote memos after every meeting and phone call between him and Trump to provide a paper trail of Trump’s attempts to influence the investigation, and shared them with top FBI officials.
Democrats on Capitol Hill were quick to respond on Twitter:
Dear Dep AG: Appoint Special Counsel to investigate Obstruction of Justice, or flush your integrity down the toilet. https://t.co/yHSzvNi76V
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) May 16, 2017
Just leaving Senate floor. Lots of chatter from Ds and Rs about the exact definition of "obstruction of justice". https://t.co/zXj32i2x8b
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) May 16, 2017
Flynn was forced to resign Feb. 13 after it was revealed that he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about contact with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. The investigation into Flynn’s Russian ties continued after his resignation, and last week there were reports that business associates of Flynn have been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors.
Comey was fired by Trump last week, and Trump admitted in an NBC News interview that the Russia probe played into his decision. Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.”
The Times also reported that in the same meeting with Comey, Trump said journalists should be imprisoned for publishing leaked classified information, despite a Supreme Court ruling that allows publication of such material.
Separately, Reuters reported Tuesday that two top candidates to replace Comey at the FBI — Judge Merrick Garland and Sen. John Conyers of Texas — have indicated they do not want the job.