The news came within a week of Trump’s dismissal of Comey and a day after reports that Trump had shared classified information with Russian officials.
Also Tuesday, in an extraordinary turn of events, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to turn over to Congress records of Trump’s discussions with the diplomats.
The latest scandals plaguing Donald Trump’s White House.
The U.S. officials told Reuters that while the president has the authority to disclose even the most highly classified information at will, in this case he did so without consulting the ally that provided it, which threatens to jeopardize a long-standing intelligence-sharing agreement. As a sitting USA president Trump’s future is essentially a political question, not a legal one.
Commentators are divided over whether Trump’s attempts to derail the investigation constitute an obstruction of justice, with some arguing that attempts to obstruct justice can only apply if the FBI was investigating a crime when Trump and Comey spoke in February.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump gave no indication of the announcement to come in a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy.
Comey wrote that Trump asked him to end an investigation into Flynn during a February meeting in the Oval Office.
“If true, these memoranda raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede the FBI’s investigation as it relates to Lieutenant General Flynn”, wrote committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Republican. “It wouldn’t be criminal obstruction unless he also said ‘you’ll have to lay off or else I’ll fire you.’ Remember, we have separation of powers and the president, as the head of the executive branch, has the power to fire and direct his subordinates”.
In remarks to reporters, Ryan, R-Wis., endorsed ongoing investigations by House committees, and declined to call for a special prosecutor or select committee, as Democrats and some fellow Republicans have demanded. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked for “less drama” from the White House.
The existence of the memo was first reported Tuesday by The New York Times and confirmed by The Associated Press via a person who had seen it and was familiar with the situation. The revelation adds a potential diplomatic complication to an episode that has renewed questions about how the White House handles sensitive intelligence.
The White House, not surprisingly, is denying the accuracy of the report – interestingly, the written statement from the West Wing wasn’t attributed to any one individual official – but given what remains of Trump World’s shredded credibility, it’s hard to take the denials seriously.
The week began badly enough with the administration being forced to admit that Trump gave away classified intel during his Oval Office visit with Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the USA – and reputed Kremlin spy-master – Sergey Kislyak.
The intensifying drama comes as Trump is set to embark Friday on his first foreign trip, which had been optimistically viewed by some aides as an opportunity to reset an administration floundering under an inexperienced president.
The New York Times said that during the Oval Office meeting, Trump condemned a series of government leaks to the news media and said the Federal Bureau of Investigation director should consider prosecuting reporters for publishing classified information. Republicans will begin to realize that their agenda is going nowhere and that their political survival depends on Trump’s political demise.
There are multiple open investigations into possible Trump-Russia ties.
Chaffetz said on Tuesday that if Comey perceived “undue influence” from the president of the United States, he had a number of options. Central to them is the idea of intent or bad objective, or what Trump may have been thinking when he allegedly told Comey in February that “I hope you can let this go“.
During the meeting, the president asked him to drop the FBI investigation, Comey’s memo said.
The Wisconsin Republican was asked on his way out of a news conference whether he still had confidence in Trump, and he responded, “I do”.