Trump reportedly asked Comey to end the investigation into Michael Flynn before sacking the FBI director

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NEW YORK CITY — US President Donald Trump reportedly asked former FBI director James Comey to end the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn during an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo written by Comey, The New York Times reported.

Trump fired Comey one week ago, on May 9.

Initially, the White House said that the Russia probe had nothing to do with the president’s decision and that he had acted solely on the recommendations of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump said days later, however, that he had been thinking about “this Russia thing” when he fired Comey, who he called a “showboat” and a “grandstander” in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt last Thursday. He tweeted on Friday that “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

The Times noted that Comey wrote the memo immediately after meeting with Trump on February 14, one day after Flynn was asked to resign. The document “was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence an ongoing investigation.”

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Their meeting came less than a month after Trump reportedly asked Comey for his loyalty, twice, during a dinner on January 27.

While the Times did not obtain the memo, portions of the document were read to a Times reporter by an associate of Comey’s who had a copy. ABC, CNN, and The Washington Post independently confirmed the content of the memo, which the Post said was “two pages long and highly detailed.”

The FBI is investigating Flynn’s contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak as part of its probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The bureau interviewed Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak in January as part of that probe.

The Acting Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that the FBI probe into Russian interference in the US election was “highly significant,” contradicting the White House’s assertion that it was a low priority for the bureau. But he also said that “there has been no effort [by the White House] to impede our investigation to date.” It is unclear if he knew about Comey’s memo, but the Times said it was shared with senior FBI officials.

A White House official said in a statement that Trump “has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country,” but he “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,” the statement continued. “This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the President and Mr. Comey.”

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said that the report, if true, amounted to “obstruction of justice.”

“That is a crime, and that is something that is prosecuted often in the federal courts here,” Toobin said.

The revelation that Trump tried to end the FBI’s probe into Flynn comes one week after former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that she warned White House counsel Don McGahn about Flynn’s conversations with Russia’s ambassador Sergey Kislyak in January so that the Trump administration “could take action.” The Justice Department, which oversees the FBI, was concerned that Flynn could “be blackmailed by the Russians,” Yates told the committee.

Flynn was asked to resign roughly 18 days after Yates first warned McGahn about his conversations with Kislyak. Democratic Sen. Al Franken asked during last week’s hearing if Yates had any idea why Trump did not fire Flynn immediately, but she replied that she could not comment.

‘Enough is enough’

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, says Congress should be given any tapes or notes related to the conversations Trump had with Comey before he was fired last week, “and subpoena them if necessary.”

“Enough is enough,” Schiff said. “Congress really needs to get to the bottom of this.”

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said in response to the bombshell report that “the country is being tested in unprecedented ways. I say to all of my colleagues in the Senate, history is watching.”

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson also weighed in: “If true, this is another piece to the puzzle and it does not look good for the White House.”

“Yesterday, secrets to the Russians. Today, obstruction of justice? When does this end?” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse tweeted.

“Memos, tapes, testimony, appt of special prosecutor — all are needed ASAP to get to the bottom of this cascading crisis,” Demoratic Sen. Patrick Leahy tweeted.

“We are well past the tipping point,” Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted. “When will the GOP put country over party?”

Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month about his handling of the investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email server and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Multiple reports emerged in the days after Comey’s firing that said Trump was incensed at the former FBI Director for implying in the hearing that Clinton may have won if the FBI hadn’t reopened its probe into her emails on October 28.

Comey also confirmed in the open — and televised — hearing that the FBI was still investigating whether there was “any coordination” between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Comey had not allowed the White House to preview his testimony, which Trump and his aides considered “an act of insubordination,” according to Reuters. The New York Times echoed that report, saying Trump was broadly irked by his inability to gain assurances of loyalty from Comey.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters on Tuesday that he invited Comey to testify in a public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I think it would be good for him if he did. It would be good for the country,” Graham said.

More from Natasha Bertrand:

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