In a bombshell announcement on Tuesday afternoon, The New York Times revealed that former FBI director James B. Comey wrote a memo memorializing his conversation with President Trump in February in the Oval Office in which Trump asked Comey to terminate the federal investigation into former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn.
The memo, written by Comey, quoted Trump saying, “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.” Comey was quoted as evading the request and simply responding, “I agree he is a good guy.”
The meeting between the two men occurred on February 14, the day after Flynn resigned from his post; Comey saw Trump after a terrorism threat briefing in the Oval Office with other senior national security officials. After the meeting, Trump reportedly told everyone to leave, including Vice President Pence and Attorney General Jeff sessions, except for Comey.
According to one Comey associate, Trump allegedly started the conversation by railing against leaks to the news media, wanting Comey to put reporters in prison for publishing classified information.
Comey wanted to keep a paper trail because he was concerned Trump was trying to influence the investigation. Comey and his aides reasoned they would try to keep the conversation secret so the revelations from it would not affect the investigation into Russia.
The Times notes, “An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.” Comey showed the memos to senior FBI officials and close associates; one associate read the parts of the memo to the Times.
The White House denied the substance of the memo, stating:
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.
Last week, acting FBI director Andrew G. McCabe told the Senate, “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date,” but that was in reference to the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, not the investigation into Flynn.
Comey created a multitude of memos, some of which are classified, to memorialize every phone call and meeting he had with Trump.
The investigation into Flynn has continued; a federal grand jury in Virginia has issued subpoenas for records related to him.