President Donald Trump requested former FBI Director James Comey end his investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to a memo written by Comey, the New York Times reports.
The memo, which a Comey associate read to Times reporters, is the most concrete evidence to date that Trump attempted to influence the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies say attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. The Times reports: “The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence an ongoing investigation.”
NBC News confirmed the existence of the memo as well as its contents soon after the Times published its report, as did CNN and the Associated Press.
BREAKING: Sources close to James Comey confirm existence of memo claiming President Trump asked Comey to close Michael Flynn investigation— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 16, 2017
According to the Times, the memo was Comey’s account of a conversation he had with Trump following Flynn’s resignation in February after a Washington Post report revealed he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence regarding his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump allegedly told Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Comey allegedly responded simply, “I agree he is a good guy.”
The White House has flatly denied that Trump asked Comey “or anyone else” to stop investigating Flynn and said the memo was “not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”
“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 White House said in a statement to the Times. “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.”
Following his firing of Comey, Trump last week threatened the former FBI director, saying on Twitter that he “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” The memo’s existence now puts the possibility of Trump having recordings of his conversations with Comey, which the White House has repeatedly refused to deny exist, under greater scrutiny.
The focus will also now shift toward whether Trump’s alleged conversation with Comey qualifies as an attempted obstruction of justice, a federal crime.
The memo revealed by the Times may also not be the last such material leaked by Comey associates. According to the Times, “Mr. Comey created similar memos—including some that are classified—about every phone call and meeting he had with the president,” according to two unnamed sources.
News of the memo comes at a trying time for Trump, who reportedly shared highly classified intelligence with Russian officials during a May 10 meeting at the Oval Office. The Washington Post story breaking that news, which has since been confirmed by at least four other outlets, arrived almost exactly 24 hours before the Times‘ memo report.