Peoples Digest Online – A handful of Republicans on Tuesday began edging away from President Donald Trump following a report that he had asked then Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey in February to abandon the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House oversight and government reform committee, wrote to the FBI demanding “all memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” regarding communications between the president and the ousted FBI chief. Mr Chaffetz gave Andrew McCabe, the bureau’s acting director, until May 24 to comply. Earlier he had suggested in a tweet that he would use his “subpoena pen” if necessary to obtain the documents. The request came after associates of Mr Comey described a memo he had written and shared with FBI officials detailing the president’s request. Late on Tuesday, pressure appeared to be building for the document, which detailed a private February 14 Oval Office meeting between the president and the FBI director, to be made public. Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona tweeted: “Congress needs to see the Comey memo.” Senator John McCain said the scandals engulfing the Trump White House were of “Watergate size and scale”. Senator Angus King, a member of the Senate intelligence committee and a respected independent, acknowledged in an interview on CNN that the memo raised the possibility of impeachment proceedings against Mr Trump.
The House of Representatives charged both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton with obstruction of justice in impeachment proceedings. Other Republicans trod cautiously amid the fast-moving developments. Senator Richard Burr, the intelligence committee chairman, said Mr Comey “never mentioned” any presidential effort to short-circuit his investigation of Mr Flynn. Mr Burr, who is leading an investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged links to Russia, said he and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Senator Mark Warner, had met Mr Comey the day before the president fired him. “The director of the FBI shared more information with Senator Warner and myself than any director has ever shared,” he said. “I think something as material as that probably would have been something he would have shared, had it happened.” Mr Comey shared the memo, part of an extensive effort to document his interactions with the president, with other top FBI officials, according to an associate who confirmed the existence of the memo and several quotes contained therein. “I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr Comey, in a reference to the investigation of Mr Flynn, the memo said.
The president reluctantly fired Mr Flynn in February after only 24 days on the job, following disclosures that the former general had misled vice-president Michael Pence about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the US. Mr Trump met Mr Comey on February 14, one day after sacking Mr Flynn. Mr Comey’s memo also quoted the president saying: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.” When the president added: “He is a good guy . . . ” Mr Comey replied only: “I agree he is a good guy”. Democrats escalated their demands for congressional action. All 33 members of the House oversight and judiciary committees endorsed a call for an “immediate” investigation of the president, attorney-general Jeff Sessions and senior White House aides for engaging in “an ongoing conspiracy” to obstruct the Russia probes. A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice declined to say whether Mr Sessions and deputy attorney-general Rod Rosenstein had seen Mr Comey’s memo. In recent days, both men have interviewed candidates to become the FBI’s new boss. Numerous lawmakers from both parties called for Mr Comey to appear before Congress to resolve the dispute between his version of the February 14 meeting and the president’s. The former director declined an invitation by the Senate intelligence committee to appear on Tuesday at a closed session, but is likely to appear before lawmakers in a public hearing.