Executive Branch

Trump reportedly asked Comey to shut down Flynn probe; is it obstruction?

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James Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey.

Updated: President Donald Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to close the FBI investigation of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in a private meeting in February, according to a memo Comey reportedly wrote soon after the meeting.

The New York Times learned of the memo from two people who had read it. One person read part of the memo to a Times journalist.

According to the memo, Trump told Comey, “I hope you can let this go” in a meeting that took place the day after Flynn was forced to resign.

Flynn was forced out Feb. 13, amid a Defense Department investigation into payments he received from Russia and Turkey. Trump fired Comey on May 9.

The Times calls Trump’s reported request “the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and FBI investigation” into links between Trump associates and Russia.

Comey had written memos to document every meeting and phone call he had with the president, the sources told the Times. Comey’s intent was to document what he perceived to be the president’s improper efforts to influence the investigation, the sources said.

House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said in a tweet that he “has his subpoena pen ready” and the committee will get the memo, if it exists, the Hill reports.

Lawyers interviewed by Politico said the report raises questions about whether Trump obstructed justice, even though though a president probably wouldn’t be charged. “It’s the longstanding position of the executive branch that the president cannot be indicted while in office,” said Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith in an interview with Politico. “The remedy for a criminal violation would be impeachment.”

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told MSNBC it’s not a clear-cut case. “If it was a polite request saying, ‘Oh, you know, he’s a good guy, Flynn, I wish you’d back off this thing,’ that’s not an obstruction of justice,” Dershowitz said. “”If it was a command, it would raise stronger problems.”

The White House denied the president made the request in this statement. “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.”

Updated on May 17 to include information from Politico and the Hill.

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