Donald Trump asked the director of the FBI to shut down the federal investigation into the Trump team’s contact with Russia, according to a bombshell report from the New York Times. Specifically, the president wanted James Comey to stop the FBI from looking into Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor who was forced to resign after it emerged he had illegally discussed US sanctions with the Russian ambassador, and then lied to the administration about it. A memo revealed by an associate of Comey to a New York Times reporter details how Trump met with the FBI director the day after Flynn resigned, and pressured him into dropping the investigation. The memo recalls Trump telling 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.”
If this is true, it would be a direct attempt for a president to influence an ongoing investigation into his own staff, and therefore an obstruction of justice. Remember that obstruction of justice was the first Article of Impeachment against Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal came to light.
The White House has, predictably, rejected the claims made by the New York Times. But White House denials do not count for much these days – in the last week Trump himself has twice sent his surrogates in front of the media with an official line, only to directly contradict them on television or Twitter hours later. It is telling that, this time, no individuals from the White House were willing to put their name to the statement of denial. Perhaps they felt burned by the president’s live announcement on Thursday that he had intended to fire James Comey regardless of recommendations from the Justice Department, or his boasting on Twitter yesterday that he revealed sensitive information – potentially classified – to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, despite White House assertions to the contrary…