The White House is denying a New York Times report that President Donald Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey — who he fired last week — to shut down the investigation into the administration’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
The Times cites a memo that Comey wrote after his meeting with the president a day after Flynn resigned following revelations that, contrary to his initial statements, he had discussed Russian sanctions with the country’s Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on a phone call in December of 2016.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey per the memo, according to the Times. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
But a White House official denied the report, which was also confirmed by outlets including NBC News, the Washington Post, CNN, CBS, ABC News, the Financial Times and the Associated Press. “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,” the official told TIME.
The official emphasized acting F.B.I. director Andrew McCabe’s testimony last week, where he said “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.”
“If the former director had those concerns why weren’t they shared with the deputy director?,” a White House official said. “Why weren’t they shared with congress? Why weren’t they shared with DOJ?”
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice declined to comment on the Times report, and Flynn’s lawyer did not respond to request for comment.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican Congressman who chairs the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (but who has said he will not finish out his term), wrote on Twitter that he has his “subpoena pen” ready to obtain Comey’s memo cited in the Times before releasing the letter he sent to McCabe requesting the committee receive “all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings” regarding communication between Trump and Comey by May 24.
But some Republican Senators were quick to express doubt about the news after it broke.
“I’ve said openly that the director of the FBI shared more information with Sen. Warner and myself than any [FBI] director has ever shared,” said Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee which is investigating the Russian meddling in the election. “I think something as material as that probably would have been something he would have shared had it happened.”
Some, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said this only increased the need for Comey to testify before Congress, which he has declined to do.
“If he [Trump] did something inappropriate with Director Comey the best way to find that out is to call him before the committee and before the country and to find that out. That’s the way to do it,” said . “I’m not going to take it from a memo.”
Democrats, however, immediately pounced, with Schumer taking to the Senate floor and describing himself as “shaken.”
“Concerns about our national security, the rule of law, the independence of our nation’s highest law enforcement agencies are mounting. The country is being tested in unprecedented ways,” Schumer said. “I say to all of my colleagues in the Senate: history is watching.”