Lawmakers Respond To Reports Trump Asked Comey To End Flynn Probe

May 16, 2017
Originally published on May 16, 2017 8:43 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The White House is trying to put out another political fire tonight, this time related to claims from ousted FBI Director James Comey that President Trump tried to shut down the federal investigation of his former national security adviser. This is just one in a string of crises that have gripped the White House since the president abruptly fired the FBI director a week ago. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now with the latest.

Hello again, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: This latest, stunning report first broke this evening in The New York Times. It has now been confirmed by NPR. Lay out the allegation for us.

HORSLEY: This story concerns a meeting that President Trump held in the Oval Office back in February with then-FBI Director James Comey. Now, this meeting came one day after the president had fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for misstatements Flynn had made about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. Now, the FBI director, Jim Comey, documented this meeting in a memo, as was his practice. He also discussed it with several associates at the FBI. And one of those associates tells us that Trump asked for the investigation of Michael Flynn to go away. If - this was described as an ask, not a command. But according to The New York Times, Comey and his associates interpreted this as an improper effort by the president to interfere with the FBI's investigation.

SHAPIRO: And what's the White House saying about this?

HORSLEY: The White House is denying this. An official released a statement saying that while the president has repeatedly expressed his view that his former national security adviser, Flynn, was a decent man, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end an investigation. Now, the White House is also pointing to testimony last week from acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who told lawmakers that the White House had not interfered with any investigation. But listen to the way this question was put to McCabe by Senator Marco Rubio.

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MARCO RUBIO: Has the dismissal of Mr. Comey in any way impeded, interrupted, stopped or negatively impacted any of the work, any investigation or any ongoing projects at the Federal Bureau of Investigations?

ANDREW MCCABE: As you know, Senator, the work of the men and women of the FBI continues despite any changes in circumstance, any decisions. So there has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.

HORSLEY: Now, again, this testimony from McCabe that the White House is pointing to is really just referring to what's happened in the last week, not to a meeting that reportedly took place back in February.

SHAPIRO: Trump was already getting a lot of criticism for firing the FBI director. Most of that criticism came from Democrats, some from Republicans. Tonight, that is only intensifying. Tell me what we're hearing from lawmakers.

HORSLEY: That's right. We heard Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Leader in the House, say, if these reports are true, it's an assault on the rule of law. She says, at best, it is a grave abuse of executive power and at worst, obstruction of justice by the president. Over on the Senate side, we heard this evening from Senator Chuck Schumer.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: Concerns about our national security, the rule of law, the independence of our nation's highest law enforcement agencies are mounting. The country is being tested in unprecedented ways. I say to all of my colleagues in the Senate, history is watching.

HORSLEY: And the Republican chairman of the House oversight committee has also said he's prepared to subpoena that Comey memo if necessary.

SHAPIRO: And, Scott, this comes just 24 hours after another major revelation saying that the president revealed classified information in his meeting last week with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador.

HORSLEY: Here, again, the White House is pushing back, saying there was nothing inappropriate. But there is a concern that the president revealed classified information in meeting with the Russian foreign minister in a way that could potentially compromise future intelligence-gathering efforts.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Scott Horsley joining us from the White House. Thank you as always, Scott. I suspect we may hear more from you tonight.

HORSLEY: You're welcome, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.