President Donald Trump on Thursday denied pressuring former FBI Director James Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser under scrutiny for his ties to Russia and his work lobbying on behalf of Turkey.
Asked a news conference in the White House whether he “at any time urge[d] former FBI director James Comey in any way, shape or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn,” Trump responded flatly, “no.”
“No,” Trump said again. “Next question.”
According to a damaging report earlier this week, Comey alleged in a memo that Trump had asked him to halt the investigation into Flynn during an Oval Office meeting in February. That conversation allegedly happened the day after Flynn was forced to step down from the national security adviser post because he had misled the public and Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had with Russia’s ambassador prior to the inauguration.
The report drew an immediate backlash from Trump’s critics, who argued that the allegation against him, if true, could constitute obstruction of justice.
There are multiple ongoing investigations into Russia’s suspected attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. Officials, now including a special counsel, are also probing whether any Trump campaign associates colluded with the Russians as they attempted to influence the election.
Trump fired Comey abruptly last week, with the White House and the president offering varying explanations for his ouster.