President Donald Trump’s White House was rocked on Tuesday night by another news report, this one alleging Trump tried to shut down an FBI investigation into one of his former aides, as the administration struggles to contain a cascade of scandals.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that former FBI Director James Comey wrote a memo detailing how Trump had asked him in the Oval Office to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a request that came just one day after Trump ousted Flynn for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
A friend of Comey’s confirmed the existence of the memo to POLITICO.
"It’s very rich in detail and hopefully it will come out soon,” said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "There are other memos about his meetings too. He wrote down every word Trump said to him as soon as he could."
The news adds to the controversy overwhelming the White House, which was already dealing with the fallout from Trump’s firing of Comey last week and his alleged disclosure of highly classified information to Russian officials.
The White House immediately pushed back against the story.
“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,” the White House said in a written statement.
But the allegation, which suggests Trump tried to interfere in a federal investigation into one of his top associates, represents some of the most serious allegations against Trump to date.
The reports also come at a critical time for Trump’s young administration, which sparked a furor last week when Trump abruptly fired Comey as the FBI is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.
The initial explanation was that Trump fired Comey based on a recommendation from top Justice Department officials, but Trump later refuted this, saying he was going to fire Comey regardless and did it with the Russia investigation in mind.
The move prompted questions from both Democrats and Republicans about whether Trump was impeding an investigation into his own campaign.
Then, on Monday, news broke in the Washington Post that Trump had divulged classified information to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The White House scrambled to contain the fallout, alleging Trump had done nothing improper even while declining to say whether he had in fact divulged confidential information.
The report that Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn follows months in which Trump has defended his former national security adviser, even after asking for his resignation.
He said on Twitter that Flynn was right to ask for immunity and blamed “fake media” for their treatment of Flynn — even though top government officials have since corroborated media accounts.