Only a day after the White House was put on the defensive by a Washington Post report based on a leak from an unnamed source, the New York Times joined the chorus.
The Times reported Tuesday that Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to “let go” of the investigation of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
The New York Times report was purportedly based on a memo supposedly seen by two unidentified agents. The memo was not seen by the paper’s editors or reporters.
One of the unidentified agents reportedly read a part of the memo to the newspaper.
The Times doesn’t appear to have sought comment from Comey concerning whether he ever wrote such a memo.
A day earlier, the Washington Post reported Trump shared “highly classified information” with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. last week.
But the Post report conceded immediately it was unlikely any laws were broken, and several others at the meeting insisted the report was not correct.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster stated, “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”
Then on Tuesday, the New York Times reported Comey kept notes after a meeting some weeks ago with Trump claiming that the president urged him to drop the investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who allegedly had inappropriate contacts with the Russian government.
The White House, in a statement on background, said it was all nonsense.
“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that Gen. 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 Gen. Flynn,” the White House 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.”
The White House also pointed out that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said in his congressional testimony last week that the White House had not interfered with any investigation.
A New York Post headline in January said the “FBI clears Michael Flynn in probe linking him to Russia.”
“The FBI has reviewed intercepted phone calls between national security adviser Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and has found no evidence of wrongdoing, it was revealed Monday,” the report said, although another investigation apparently is continuing.
The Times said its evidence that Trump asked Comey to shut down the federal investigation into Flynn comes from a memo Comey wrote.
“I hope you can let this go,” the Times claimed the president told Comey.
The newspaper said the “existence of Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.”
It said Comey wrote the memo right after the meeting, but the newspaper hasn’t seen it.
“The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.”
There appears to be no corroboration of the memo from Comey.
The report said Comey and his aides “perceived Mr. Trump’s comments as an effort to influence the investigation, but they decided that they would try to keep the conversation secret – even from the F.B.I. agents working on the Russia investigation – so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.”