President Trump in February asked former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, according to a short memo Comey reportedly wrote detailing the Oval Office conversation.
The memo was one of several Comey created that detailed conversations and interactions with the president in what he believed were improper attempts to influence the FBI’s investigation, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
“I hope you can let this go,” Trump reportedly told Comey, according to the memo, which was read to, not viewed by, a Times reporter.
The memo was a two-page, highly-detailed account of Comey’s interaction with Trump on Feb. 14, according to the Washington Post, which also confirmed the memo, as did NBC, CNN, and other news outlets.
After the New York Times story was published, the White House insisted the president has never asked Comey to end any investigation, including into Flynn.
“The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations,” officials said. “This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”
A Department of Justice spokeswoman declined to comment on what happened to any records Comey created once he was fired.
When asked about the Times report, Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, told BuzzFeed News, “We decline to comment.”
After Comey was fired by Trump, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told a Senate committee last week that there had been no White House effort to impede the FBI’s investigation into Russia.
But according to the Times, Comey was at the White House Feb. 14 with other national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. Trump then asked all others in the room, including Vice President Mike Pence, to leave him alone with Comey.
During that conversation, according to the report, Trump suggested to Comey he should jail reporters for publishing classified information. He then began to speak with the FBI director about his agency’s investigation into Flynn.
Comey wrote the memo immediately after the meeting, the Times reported, and then shared it with senior FBI officials.
The FBI officials decided to keep the conversation secret so it would not affect the ongoing investigation into Flynn and Russia.
Shortly after the report was published, Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said he wants Comey to return to Congress to testify.
If the report is true, Schiff said, it raised the possibility that the president tried to obstruct an investigation, he told reporters.
“I think we know enough now,” Schiff said. “There’s been enough alleged publicly to want to bring the director back to testify, ideally in an open session before our committee or judiciary committee.”
Schiff said the committee should also also request for the notes taken or made shortly after Comey’s meetings and discussions with Trump.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “Congress really needs to get to the bottom of this.”
The Committee for Freedom of the Press also released a statement after news of the report leaked Tuesday, calling President Trump’s suggestion to jail journalists “a dangerous line.”
“No president gets to jail journalists,” the statement read. “The president’s remarks should not intimidate the press but inspire it.”
As news of Comey’s memo spread Tuesday afternoon, Trump — via the email address he used during the campaign — apparently attempted to raise money from the latest series of scandals. The email, which includes a request to contribute $1 to “drain the swamp,” began by saying the “media was out to get us,” adding that “there are people within our own unelected bureaucracy that want to sabotage President Trump and our entire America First movement.”
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Congress should subpoena Comey’s memos, transcripts of conversations, and any tapes Trump may have recorded during his meetings with the former FBI director.
“And we may well have another United States vs. Nixon if the president resists providing them,” he told reporters. “I think it’s absolutely stunning that anybody could be this brazen.”
He also reiterated his call for a special prosecutor to be appointed.
“You’re watching an obstruction of justice investigation developing in real time,” Blumenthal said. “I’m just staggered by this really, very threatening situation (…) I think our democracy is on a precipice.”
Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer also urged legislators to act.
“The country is being tested and unprecedented ways,” Schumer said. “I say to all of my colleagues, in the Senate, history is watching.”