The White House fired back late Tuesday on a report that a memo from James Comey claimed President Trump once asked the ex-FBI director to stop the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The New York Times is reporting that Comey wrote the memo after an Oval Office meeting on Feb. 14, the day after Flynn resigned from the Trump administration. The paper acknowledged it had not seen a copy of the memo, but said a Comey associate read parts of it to a reporter over the phone.
The same reporter for the Times who broke this story, also broke the story for the Clinton private email scandal, the reporter has FBI informants that have panned out in the past.
The memo was presented as the clearest evidence yet that Trump tried to influence the Justice Department and FBI probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and alleged links to Trump’s associates.
But the White House rejected the characterization that the president tried to shut down an investigation.
“[T]he President has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” an official said. “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.”
President Trump reportedly told Comey, “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.”
According to the Times, Comey wrote in the memo that Trump told him Flynn had done nothing wrong. But Comey did not say anything to Trump about limiting the investigation, replying, “I agree he is a good guy.”
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe also testified last week on Capitol Hill that there “has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.” The FBI had no official comment on the Times report Tuesday.
The Justice Department also declined to comment on the New York Times report, on the existence of the Comey memo, or whether there was any such conversation between Trump and Comey.
Trump’s inner circle has been dogged by critical reports about his discussions behind closed doors. His team is still grappling with a Washington Post report that he shared classified details on an ISIS threat with visiting Russian officials – the White House has defended Trump’s discussions as “wholly appropriate.”
But more broadly, Trump has faced growing accusations from Democrats that he fired Comey last week out of frustration with the Russia investigation.
“Enough is enough,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, told reporters moments after the Times report was published. “Congress really needs to get to the bottom of this.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. said on the Senate floor that he was “shaken” by the report.
“On a day when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, they have,” Schumer said. “Concerns about our national security, the rule of law, and the independence of our nation’s highest law enforcement agencies are mounting … the country is being tested in unprecedented ways.”