In a day rocked by revelation after revelation – from President Trump’s tweets defending his discussions with the Russians in the Oval Office to General McMaster’s press conference, and from the controversy over the Trump administration’s equivocation on whether the Western Wall is part of Israel (hint: it is) to the disclosure that the intelligence discussed by Trump with Lavrov & Kysliak originated with Israel – yet another potential bombshell dropped this evening. The New York Times reported that James Comey – fired from the FBI by President Trump exactly one week ago today (and apparently known for being an extremely meticulous note-taker) – had written a memo alleging that, back in February of this year, President Trump seemingly pressured him to drop the FBI investigation into Mike Flynn (which he declined to do):
“President Trump asked the FBI director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting. ‘I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. The evidence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and FBI investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia … The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation … ‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. ‘He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.’ … Mr. Comey created similar memos – including some that are classified – about every phone call and meeting he had with the president.”
The White House swiftly issued a flat denial of the allegations, stating in part:
“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 [report] is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”
So, with the New York Times report on Comey’s memo alleging interference on the part of President Trump and with the White House claiming it never happened, it became clear that both sides couldn’t be right — and so some members of Congress began to assert their powers to get to the bottom of this. Notably, Jason Chaffetz, the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, said that Congress deserved to see the memo in question immediately, and that he was already in the process of making sure the truth came to light. In an interview with NBC, Chaffetz was very direct:
Q: Reax to Comey memo?
Chaffetz: “If the memo exists, I need to see it and I need to see it right away. We are drafting the ncessary paperwork to get the memo so we will find out in a hurry if it’s out there.”
Q: appropriate for president to ask FBI Director to shut down investigation?
Chaffetz: “I want to read the memo first but on the surface that seems like an extraordinary use of influence to try to shut down an investigation being done by the FBI. I don’t know if it’s true yet but I want to find out if that’s actually out there.”
Q: you could subpoena these memos or Comey?
Chaffetz: “Yes, if it’s out there, I’m gunna need to see it and I’ll use every tool we have to get it.”
Chaffetz even took to Twitter to directly state: “@GOPOversight is going to get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.” And, just a few minutes ago, the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform sent a letter directly to acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, stating that “If true, these memoranda raise questions as to whether the President attempted to influence or impede the FBI’s investigation as it relates to Lt. Gen. Flynn. So the Committee can consider that question, and others, provide, no later than May 24, 2017, all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the President.” Essentially, he asked for all of the Comey memos that the FBI might have in its possession. You can see Chaffetz’s full letter here.
After previously declining to testify in closed session in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, many of Comey’s associates predicted that he was absolutely willing to testify – as long as his testimony could be publicly broadcast out to the nation. Well, whether public testimony had been his initial plan or not, it seems like Congress is now likely to force his hand and to compel his public appearance. Senator Lindsey Graham has now repeated his request for Comey to testify in front of the Judiciary Committee, and, after seeing the comments from Congressman Jason Chaffetz demanding to see the Comey memo, Congressman Justin Amash made it clear that he wanted to hear from Comey immediately and publicly:
“The allegations reportedly contained in the memo are incredibly serious. Mr. Comey also needs to testify in open session ASAP.”
The James Comey saga had been briefly pushed out of the news only when the Trump-Russia Oval Office intelligence discussion controversy consumed the last 24-hour news cycle, but there’s no doubt that he is back at the forefront again. Make no mistake: the allegations supposedly contained in the Comey memo couldn’t be more serious. In his heartfelt farewell letter to the FBI last week, Comey had said “It is done.” In hindsight, it’s safe to say that was a bit premature.