Fired FBI head James Comey may have notes showing that President Donald Trump asked him to drop an investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
The New York Times is the source of this latest potential bombshell, but to be very clear, the newspaper doesn't have a copy of this memo. One of Comey's former associates apparently read the contents of the memo to a New York Times reporter. The White House denies the allegation. From the Times:
"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."
Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.
Mr. Comey did not say anything to Mr. Trump about curtailing the investigation, only replying: "I agree he is a good guy."
In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.
"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 statement said. "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."
This has the potential to be a smoking gun, but we don't know who is actually holding it yet. If the memo is real and is an accurate representation of the conversation between Comey and Trump then we will see calls to impeach grow even louder. There are already mutterings of "obstruction of justice" as a justification. Other media outlets are now verifying the contents of the memo, but an actual copy of it has not been released.
Those are a couple of big "ifs." And in the other direction, if the memo is faked and the Times fell for it, or if there's evidence that Comey misrepresented the conversation, then the metaphorical gun here is being held by one of the biggest media outlets that has been the target of much of the president's anger. If the Times gets this wrong (and the media outlets rushing to catch up with the story as well), a screw-up this huge is going to damage the media's reputation even further, likely for at least the remainder of Trump's administration.
Given that there are sources at the FBI who are very furious about Comey's abrupt firing, Times and other media outlets better have it together on this. If this remotely has the chance of actually taking Trump down, there's no getting around the role that the media is taking on by disclosing this information so early. Indeed, according to this memo, Trump told Comey to consider arresting and imprisoning reporters for publishing classified information.
So stay tuned. It is May sweeps, after all. Are we setting up for a crazy and unexpected series finale, or a hard-core battle fought out through the next year?
Read the Times reporting here.
Update: Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) tweets his concerns:
The allegations reportedly contained in the memo are incredibly serious. Mr. Comey also needs to testify in open session ASAP. https://t.co/OjZIvpRsxm
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 16, 2017