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White House Denies Reports Trump Asked Comey To Drop Flynn Probe


We are following developments this evening about a serious new accusation against President Trump. Back in February, Trump apparently asked then FBI Director James Comey to drop the bureau's investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's connections to Russia. The White House denies this account.

Joining us now is NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson who has some new reporting on this story. Hi, Carrie.


SHAPIRO: FBI Director James Comey apparently wrote a memo just after that February meeting with the president. What have you learned about what the memo says?

JOHNSON: Yeah, I'm told that the FBI director, the former FBI director, Comey, wrote a memo the day after Mike Flynn lost his job in the White House memorializing his conversation with President Trump. I asked a source close to Comey, a Comey associate, why Comey felt the need to memorialize this conversation. The source says Comey was concerned.

And in the memo, the former FBI director wrote that President Trump said, I hope you can let this go, referring to the FBI investigation of Mike Flynn. I'm told Comey gave a nonresponse response, and the meeting ended but that this was not the only conversation with President Trump that James Comey decided to take contemporaneous notes of for his files. Those materials were shared with a small circle of people inside the FBI and, later, other friends and associates of James Comey who are speaking about them now.

SHAPIRO: And we're hearing tonight that lawmakers may subpoena those memos. If in fact the president did ask the FBI director to drop an investigation into one of his associates, does that constitute obstruction of justice?

JOHNSON: Ari, that's a sensitive and complicated legal analysis. We need to know what was in President Donald Trump's mind at the time of this alleged request. Of course as you note, the White House denies the president asked Comey to end the Mike Flynn investigation or any investigation. The White House said tonight it has tremendous respect for law enforcement and would never meddle in that way.

This could come down to a credibility test between President Trump, who's reported via Twitter that he has some kind of tapes of conversations with Comey, and Comey's own notes, which Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah and a House committee chairman, says he wants to subpoena. Lindsey Graham, a senator from South Carolina, Republican, also says he wants Comey to testify in public about all this.

SHAPIRO: This is a big mystery about whether or not there are tape recordings. If it comes down to Trump's word against Comey's, how does something like that get resolved?

JOHNSON: Well, you know, it's a credibility test. James Comey has been known to take notes of sensitive and controversial issues in the past. In fact, Ari, during the George W. Bush administration, Comey was the deputy attorney general. Years later, memos came out that Comey had written to his chief of staff and right-hand man with respect to enhanced interrogation techniques or torture of detainees after 9/11. And in fact, those were reported on by the press years later and mostly held up as accounts of what happened in real time. James Comey and his friends may be hoping the same thing happens with respect to Mike Flynn, Russia and his firing - surprise firing only a week ago by President Donald Trump.

SHAPIRO: NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson, thank you very much.

JOHNSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.
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