Trump denies telling Comey to back off Flynn investigation

Claudine Rigal
Mai 20, 2017

A Washington Post report, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, said a senior Trump adviser is now considered a "person of interest" in the law enforcement investigation into whether Trump's campaign associates co-ordinated with Russian Federation in an effort to sway the 2016 election.

White House hopes that Trump could leave scandalous allegations at home were crushed in a one-two punch of revelations that landed shortly after his departure.

In the report, Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a friend of Comey's, detailed the comical lengths that Comey went to in order to avoid the President.

Trump is scheduled to leave Washington on Friday on his first foreign trip, a nine-day sojourn with stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium, as well as a visit to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis.

On Wednesday, Justice Department officials announced that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had tapped Mueller as special counsel.

Comey reportedly documented his interactions with Trump and other White House officials in memos that he passed along to his aides, according to The Times. Rosenstein said that though he was personally fond of Comey, "I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader".

As previously reported, Trump's team also set up a dinner meeting with Comey where the President is reported to have demanded loyalty of the FBI Director.

Stories have emerged at a near daily rate about the Comey-Trump relationship ever since Trump fired him from the agency last week, leading to some of the public pressure for a special prosecutor to be named. By several senators' accounts, he contradicted Trump's statements that Rosenstein's written criticism of FBI Director James Comey had been a factor in Comey's recent firing by the president.

The Justice Department on Friday distributed prepared remarks that Rosenstein delivered to Congress in separate briefings. Trump said he acted because Comey, who had been overseeing the Russian Federation investigation, "wasn't doing a good job" leading the agency, calling him a "showboat" and a "grandstander".

Rosenstein had the responsibility of deciding to appoint a special counsel because Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former surrogate for the Trump campaign, has recused himself from decisions on the issue.

The president's tweets drew little reaction from fellow Republicans, who instead joined Democrats in heaping praise on Mueller, a longtime respected lawman who served under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, preceding Comey as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Michigan Republican Rep. Dave Trott says lawmakers pressed Rosenstein on the memo but he declined to respond. "I now have significantly greater confidence that the investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead". Trump has insisted at times that the decision was his alone, but he also has pointed to the "very strong" recommendation from Rosenstein. But it remains unclear what Trump was referring to or whether Comey actually told him he was not being probed. But he added, "I wrote it".

Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said he also believes Rosenstein's memo had little to do with the president's decision. However, at a combative news conference Thursday, he fell short in trying to resolve questions about investigations into his campaign and his first four months in office.

Since Comey's firing on May 9, the calls for Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel have intensified, especially from Democratic lawmakers who believe he can longer be impartial in the Russian Federation investigation, given his role in the firing.

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