President Donald Trump asked FBI chief James Comey to end an inquiry into links between his ex-national security adviser Micheal Flynn and Russia, US media report.
Trump urged Comey instead to pursue reporters in leak cases, according to associates of the former FBI director who have seen private notes he wrote recounting the conversation, reported The Washington Post.
The conversation between Trump and Comey took place after a national security meeting, reports said.
The president asked to speak privately to the FBI director, and the others left the room, according to the Comey associates, who, like other officials, spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal internal discussions.
“I hope you can let this go,” Mr Trump reportedly told Mr Comey after a White House meeting in February, according to a memo written by the ex-FBI director.
The memo was written immediately after the meeting, a day after Flynn resigned. Comey’s written account of the meeting is two pages long and highly detailed.
The White House has denied the report in a 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 statement read.
But one of the most important Republicans in the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election isn’t taking the memo’s apparent revelations lightly: Rep. Jason Chaffetz, of Utah, who oversees the House investigation into Russia as chairman of the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, tweeted that his committee would “get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.”
And he used it, sending a letter Tuesday night to Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe for “all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring to or relating to any communications between Comey and the President,” in order to determine “whether the President attempted to influence or impede the FBI’s investigation.”
“We need to have all the facts, & it is appropriate for Oversight Committee to request this memo,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in a statement to CNN.
Mr Flynn was forced out in February over revelations that he discussed lifting US sanctions on Russia with their ambassador to Washington before Mr Trump took office. He also misled the US vice-president about that conversation.
The latest Russia twist, first reported by the New York Times, comes a week after Mr Trump fired Mr Comey over his handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while at the State Department.
Mr Comey’s dismissal sent shockwaves through Washington, with critics accusing the president of trying to thwart the FBI investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the US election and any Moscow ties to Trump associates.
The conversation described in the notes raises new questions about whether Trump may have crossed any legal lines into criminal behavior by pressuring the FBI to end an investigation.
The revelation also marks the second major challenge for the White House this week, coming just a day after a report in The Washington Post that the president disclosed highly classified information to Russian diplomats during a private meeting last week at the White House. And it comes at a particularly precarious time for the Trump administration as it searches for someone to nominate to succeed Comey as the next leader of the FBI — the official who will take over investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any coordination between Trump associates and Russian officials.