President Donald Trump’s interview last Thursday with NBC’s Lester Holt seems so long ago at this point. But the latest news has brought it back into the spotlight.
Here’s the Times’s lead with the explosive revelation:
President Trump asked the FBI director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.
“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.
And the Washington Post confirms the story, claiming that Comey’s own notes reveal that Trump “pressured” Comey into ending the Flynn probe.
Trump told Holt that he wanted the investigation to go faster. Instead, it now appears that not only did he try to slow it down but he tried to end the portion that looked into his ol’ pal Flynn.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump reportedly said to Comey. “He is a good guy.”
Good guy or not, it now seems Trump personally tried to influence the outcome of the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between an associate of the president and Russia.
As Vox previously reported, Flynn and three other Trump associates feature prominently in that investigation.
Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Flynn to get documents related to his communications with Russian officials. The committee also asked the Treasury Department to look into Flynn’s finances.
While subpoenas are normal parts of investigations, for them to continue the investigation means there is something to look into. In other words, the investigators think there’s a there there.
The White House has responded to the New York Times story, denying it completely:
No one at the White House willing to put their name on this statement pic.twitter.com/cm6BTWC26w— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) May 16, 2017
That denial is going to be hard to substantiate, especially if the paper trail of what Comey deemed to be the “president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation” does in fact exist.
If that’s the case, Trump may want to bust out those “tapes” he claims to have of his and Comey’s conversations. That’s probably the only way he’s going to refute a paper trail now.
When Trump fired Comey (last week!), my colleague Matthew Yglesias wrote that “a whiff of obstruction of justice is in the air.”
That whiff just became a much stronger scent.