The New York Times reported this afternoon that former FBI Director James Comey left a memo in February, in which he wrote that President Donald Trump had asked him to end the bureau’s investigation of his one-time National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump sacked Comey last week.
The NYT report, which ripped through the TV news landscape Tuesday evening, again raises the question as to whether Trump was bluffing about those tape recordings of his conversations with Comey he referenced when he threatened Comey via Twitter last Friday. If that conversation Comey allegedly references in a memo was recorded, it could become critical to determining whether Trump completes his White House term.
Early last Friday, Trump took to Twitter to broadcast to the world, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Hours later, he taped an interview with Fox News Channel’s Jeanine Pirro in which he said “That I can’t talk about. I won’t talk about that,” when asked about those, according to Trump, tape recorded conversations. “All I want is for Comey to be honest. And I hope he will be. And I’m sure he will be – I hope.”
Trump appeared to have written that tweet to tell Comey to think twice, in case he’s mulling whether to publicly contradict Trump’s assertion that the now-former FBI director had three times assured Trump he was not under investigation. POTUS told NBC News’ Lester Holt, in an interview parsed out last Thursday and Friday, that Comey had asked to have dinner with him in January because he wanted to hang on to his job. During that dinner, Trump said Comey first assured him he was not under investigation as part of the bureau’s probe of possible Trump campaign collusion in Russia’s election meddling. Trump told Holt that Comey assured him two more times on the phone.
In that interview with Holt, Trump said the FBI’s investigation as to whether any Trump campaign associates colluded with Russians trying to influence the presidential election is a “made-up story.”
“It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election,” he told Holt. “They should have won, and the reason they should have won it is, the electoral college is almost impossible for a Republican to win. Very hard. Because you start off at such a disadvantage. So everybody thinks they should have won the election.”
In sacking Comey last week, Trump said, “I probably, maybe, will confuse people, maybe I’ll lengthen the time [of the FBI investigation]. In my opinion it should have been over a long time ago, because it’s an excuse.”
The White House on Tuesday afternoon issued a statement in response to the NYT report about the alleged Comey memo:
“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.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper reported that one of his sources, who he described as a pal of Comey’s, has a copy of the memo.
According to Tapper’s source, Comey was in the Oval Office on February 14, briefing Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. After the briefing, Tapper reported, Trump asked Pence and Sessions to leave the room. Then, according to Comey’s memo, Trump told Comey, “I hope you can see your way to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy,” adding that Flynn had not done anything wrong.
Comey was concerned it appeared Trump was trying to stop an FBI investigation, Tapper reported, citing his unnamed source. Comey wrote a number of memos about Trump, he added, focusing on those contacts with POTUS that made him feel “uneasy.”
Tapper reported what already had been out there: that Comey wants to testify, but in public, not privately, and hopes there are, in fact, recordings of the conversations. The CNN newsman explained to colleague Wolf Blitzer that Comey wrote these memos and shared them with confidantes, including some inside the FBI as well as others in law enforcement but not within the bureau, because he was worried about the uncorroborated nature of the developments.