White House offers muted response on Comey memo

Posted May 20, 2017

On Tuesday, The New York Times was the first to report on a February memo by Comey that suggested Trump asked him to lay off Flynn. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a former state attorney general.

"On its face, this is a textbook prima facie case of an attempt to obstruct justice", concluded Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., a former USA attorney. He added: "Whether there are mitigating circumstances remains to be seen".

House Oversight Committee chair Jason Chaffetz, a senior Republican, said the memo and related documents "raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede the FBI's investigation". "You can't let them get you down", he said.

The letter came after the Senate Intelligence Committee made a similar request for Comey's memos.

There are multiple obstruction of justice statutes on the books. "Secondly, I don't know what investigation they're talking about".

President Donald Trump on Thursday assailed the Justice Department's appointment of a special counsel to investigate possible ties between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russian Federation, calling it "the single greatest witch hunt" in USA history.Trump's defiant Twitter comments stood in contrast to his measured statement on Wednesday night after former FBI chief Robert Mueller was named as special counsel, in which he said "a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know - there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity."Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller after a succession of jarring developments that brought to a boil questions over Russia's alleged meddling in the election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign.They included Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, reports that Trump had previously pressured Comey to end a probe of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Trump discussing sensitive information on Islamic State with Russia's foreign minister.In Twitter postings, the Republican president decried the naming of a special counsel, by an official he himself appointed."With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!"

Last week, the President tweeted a message implying that the White House may have recordings of interactions with Mr. Comey. "The President has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations".

"I spoke to him [Lavrov] today", he said. The act has to be done corruptly.

Trump denied during a news conference on Thursday afternoon that he urged Comey to end an investigation into Flynn. Green had already called for Trump's impeachment at a press conference and on television earlier in the week.

Any investigation would pay close attention to the timeline. In January, only days after the inauguration, then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates had informed Trump's White House counsel that Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI as part of an active investigation.

"If the White House is looking for this worldwide trip to turn the page, then it really needs to come off well without any balls dropped or serious mistakes", said the strategist, who requested anonymity.

Flynn left his post in February after media reports that he misled the vice president about his contacts with Russian Federation.

Ryan said lawmakers want to hear from Comey about "why he didn't take action at the time" if his allegation that Trump asked him to stop investigating Flynn is true.

The commotion around Trump's statements on Flynn has somewhat obscured his no less chilling request that Comey jail journalists for publishing information based on leaks - something that has never happened in the history of this country.

"Obstruction of justice laws do not apply in this case exclusively to the president", Jordan Libowitz of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tells me.

Afterward, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, White House spokesman Sean Spicer brushed aside questions about the congressional inquiries.

"It's falling out of the trees, the evidence", he said.

Defenders of Trump have been signaling they may attempt to turn the spotlight back on Comey, asking why the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director didn't blow the whistle or quit after the February conversation with Trump.

But most Republicans were able to avoid giving a definitive response about Trump's conduct because a memo Comey wrote about a meeting with the president hasn't surfaced publicly.

White House officials and Republicans close to the administration say Trump, who campaigned on an "America First" slogan, wants to demonstrate leadership overseas on his visit with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Israel and the West Bank, the pope at the Vatican, North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders in Brussels and Group of Seven counterparts in Sicily.

To lawyer Luskin, the talk of criminal charges misses the point. Framing political crises as law enforcement matters "has the effect at the end of the day of leaving people with less respect for the legal process than before".