US President Donald Trump had asked sacked FBI director James Comey to end the agency’s investigation into ties between his former national security adviser Mike Flynn and Russia, according to a media report. The latest crisis to beset Trump came just 24 hours after another report accused him of sharing classified intelligence with Russia during Oval Office talks with Russian officials. The New York Times said yesterday that Trump asked Comey to end the investigation against Flynn. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Trump is quoted as telling Comey.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey, according to the former FBI chief’s record of the meeting, as reported by the Times. Comey was abruptly fired by Trump at a time when he was leading an investigation into whether Trump’s election campaign had links with Russia’s alleged interference in the US polls. Sourcing its story based on two people who read the memo, the daily claimed that Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with Trump immediately after the meeting, which took place a day after Flynn resigned.
A day earlier, The Washington Post also published a report which alleged that Trump shared “highly classified” information with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a White House meeting last week. The White House swung into action after the latest revelations and strongly refuted the latest report. “While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the resident has never asked Mr Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” a White House 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,” the official said. Trump’s team accused an “unelected bureaucracy” of sabotaging his presidency by spreading such information. The Trump administration accused the media of putting national security at risk by publishing stories based on leaks. “Our national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality, and those releasing information to the press that could be used, connected with other information available, to make American citizens and others more vulnerable,” US National Security Advisor Lt Gen H R McMaster told reporters.
Meanwhile, the opposition Democrats demanded an investigation into the allegations and Trump’s relations with Russia. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said he was shaken by the report in the New York Times. “And we are only one day removed from stunning allegations that the president may have divulged classified information to a known adversary. Concerns about our national security, the rule of law, the independence of our nation’s highest law enforcement agencies are mounting,” he said on the Senate floor. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said if the reports are true, the Trump’s brazen attempt to shut down the FBI investigation is an “assault on the rule of law” that is fundamental to the American democracy.
Pelosi said the Democrats will file a discharge petition to demand a vote on the bipartisan bill to establish an independent, outside commission to investigate the president’s ties with Russia.
Indian-American Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi termed the revelations as “a serious breach of the law”. “Today we learnt that former FBI Director James Comey documented his conversations with President Trump in a series of memos. In one memo, Mr Comey claims that after clearing the room, President Trump asked him to end the investigation of General Michael Flynn. If true, this would be a serious breach of the law,” he said. Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley said this is a “blatant abuse of power”, and demanded a thorough, independent and bipartisan investigation into the matter.