As much as the President might wish the allegations of links between his election campaign’s links to Russia and Russia’s possible interference in the election last year just will not go away. And that is just how it should be. A new report in the New York Times suggests that the President, in February, asked the then FBI director James Comey “shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser” Michael Flynn, who had resigned just a day before. The paper says that the request came at a meeting at the Oval Office and that the President said to Mr 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.” Mr Comey says he did not reply to the request except to say: “I agree he is a good guy.”
Mr Comey had written a memo the day after the meeting which, according to the New York Times, was part of a “paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.” Michael Flynn was forced to resign after it was revealed he misled the Vice-President about hi conversations with Russia’s ambassador before Mr Trump took office, and this latest twist comes only a week after the President fired James Comey. He claimed that he did so because of his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of private email servers to store government emails while Secretary of State but many felt it was because Mr Comey was investigating the President’s aides links to Russia. The President later admitted that Russia was part of the reasoning for firing Mr Comey. Mr Comey was replaced by Andrew McCabe as FBI Director. Mr McCabe upon taking office testified that there had been “no effort to impede our investigation to date.” Mr McCabe, however, was referring to the broad Russian investigation. The Michael Flynn investigation is separate and Mr McCabe may not have been aware of Mr Comey’s own memo.
Photos: Former National Security Adviser Lt-Gen Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James Comey
The White House has denied the latest report, saying: “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.” Yet again the White House denies a report about the President, but only yesterday we saw them do the same over reports that the President had shared classified material with Russia only for the President to contradict the denial in tweets hours later. Can anyone seriously believe statements coming out of the Trump White House anymore?
The Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, wrote to the acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe demanding that all documents related to all communications between the President and Mr Comey were presented to the House Committee by 24 May. Mr Chaffetz has come under criticism in recent months for not pursuing the investigation into the President’s associates as much as he did for the investigation into Hillary Clinton. However, according to the New York Times, he is showing much more interest in the Russian investigation now that he has announced that he will not be standing for re-election to Congress in 2018.
The latest controversy is possibly the strongest evidence that the President has been attempting to influence or stop investigations into his associates, aides, campaign and all their possible links to Russia and Russia’s alleged interference in the US election last year. The word “impeachment” continues to be bandied around Washington but as long as the Republicans control both the House and Senate it seems unlikely that any attempt to impeach President Trump would succeed. For it to do so enough Republicans would have to sacrifice not only their own President but any hope of progressing a Republican mandate for the foreseeable future. Anthony Zurcher, writing for the BBC from Washington, suggests that some Republicans are wavering at the suggestion of another Watergate-scale scandal brewing but “for the rank-and-file to turn on the president will require them to admit their complicity in a failed presidency.”
Sources & Further Reading:
- Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation – nytimes.com – 16 May 2017 – by Michael S. Schmidt
- What Is Obstruction of Justice? An Often-Murky Crime, Explained – nytimes.com – 16 May 2017 – by Charlie Savage
- The Events That Led to Comey’s Firing, and how the White House’s story changed – nytimes.com – updated 16 May 2017 – by Stuart A. Thompson & Alicia Parlapiano
- Trump asked FBI’s Comey to drop Flynn inquiry – reports – bbc.co.uk/news – 17 May 2017 – include report by Anthony Zurcher
- White House reels from another self-inflicted crisis – bbc.co.uk/news – 16 May 2017 – Tara McKelvey, White House reporter
- Trump reportedly urged James Comey to drop Michael Flynn investigation – theguardian.com – 17 May 2017 – by Tom McCarthy, Lauren Gambino, Sabrina Siddiqui and Ben Jacobs
- Comey, Russia and a ‘smoking gun’: a roundup of Trump’s current woes – theguardian.com – 17 May 2017 – by Tom McCarthy
- Donald Trump ‘in impeachment territory’, says former adviser to Nixon, Reagan and Clinton – independent.co.uk – 17 May 2017 – by Jon Sharman