President Donald Trump said Thursday that he never asked former FBI Director James Comey to end the bureau’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s foreign contacts and payments.
“No. No. Next question,” Trump replied during a press conference with the Colombian president when asked about the New York Times report that Comey had written a memo documenting the February 14 exchange.
Trump fired Comey one week ago, in what the White House initially said was based on the recommendations of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Trump said later, however, that he had been thinking about “this Russia thing” when he fired Comey, whom he called a “showboat” and a “grandstander” in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt last Thursday. He tweeted Friday that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to oversee the probe on Wednesday, in an escalation of the investigation that Trump called “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” Trump repeated that he felt the probe was akin to a “witch hunt” during the Thursday press conference.
The Times reported 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.”
Trump asked Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to leave the room before asking Comey to drop the Flynn probe, according to reports from the Times and CNN. Their meeting came weeks 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 who had a copy, the paper said. ABC, CNN, and The Washington Post independently confirmed the content of the memo, which the Post said was “two pages long and highly detailed.”
More from Natasha Bertrand:
- The deputy attorney general just threw more cold water on the White House’s explanation for Comey’s firing
- ‘This is bad news for President Trump’: The FBI’s new special counsel could spell danger for the White House
- ‘What does Flynn have on Trump?’: Flynn indicated he had a story to tell — and Trump has been eager to defend him
- ‘The president has willingly created this self-portrait’: Trump has become the ‘principal witness’ against himself
- House Majority Leader told Republicans in 2016 he thought Putin was paying Trump
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