FBI Director James B. Comey listens to a question from a reporter during a media conference in San Francisco, Calif., Feb. 27, 2014. 
Photo by Ben Margot/AP

Comey memo may prove to be a smoking gun for Trump

About a week after his presidential inauguration, Donald Trump had dinner with then-FBI Director James Comey, and at the time, the president reportedly asked about the investigation into the Russia scandal and sought a loyalty pledge from Comey. Given the circumstances, the dinner discussion looked a bit like obstruction of justice.

Later, when the president said he fired Comey because of Trump’s dissatisfaction with the investigation into the Russia scandal, the admitted details looked even more like obstruction of justice.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/16/17, 9:05 PM ET

Comey memo: Trump asked for end of Flynn investigation: NYT

Mike Schmidt, reporter for the New York Times, talks with Rachel Maddow about his scoop that James Comey’s notes from a meeting with Donald Trump include a description of Trump asking Comey to end the investigation into disgraced Trump NSA Mike Flynn.
New York Times’ report, published late yesterday, appears to remove any sense of subtlety from the conversation about the scandal.
President Trump asked the F.B.I. 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.
It’s important to note that the memo was contemporaneous with the events. This isn’t a case in which an aggrieved fired official, eager to punish the president who ended his career, is reflecting on a discussion that happened months prior; rather, this is an instance in which Comey kept a paper trail, documenting developments as they occurred.

The White House, not surprisingly, is denying the accuracy of the report – interestingly, the written statement from the West Wing wasn’t attributed to any one individual official – but given what remains of Trump World’s shredded credibility, it’s difficult to take the denials seriously.

In this case, the president reportedly met in private with Comey, the day after former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn – a key figure in the Russia scandal – was fired. According to the Times’ report on the memo, Trump told the then-FBI director, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This is precisely what a president whose team is under an FBI investigation cannot do.

At some level, Trump probably understands how serious this is. When he sat down last week with NBC News’ Lester Holt, the anchor asked the president if he’d asked Comey to drop the investigation. “No, never,” Trump replied.

Of course, if the latest revelations are correct, “I hope you can let this go” is evidence of the president trying to squelch at least part of an ongoing federal investigation.

As a presidential candidate, Trump was outraged by the idea of powerful figures pressing officials at the Justice Department. Apparently, the Republican adopted a new posture after taking office.

At this point, we have not yet seen the Comey memo in question, though Congress is apparently taking an interest. NBC News reported that House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) last night “demanded Tuesday that the FBI turn over all documents it has about communications between President Donald Trump and former FBI Director James Comey.”

There’s likely to be quite a few. The Wall Street Journal reported that the bombshell memo we learned of yesterday “isn’t the only one that documents Mr. Comey’s encounters with the president,” according to a former Comey associated. There are “a number of encounters with the president that concerned him, and he wrote very detailed memos about those instances,” the person said.

Postscript: In a tweet last week, Trump seemed to threaten Comey into silence. Evidently, that’s not working out well for the White House.

Donald Trump, FBI, James Comey and Scandals

Comey memo may prove to be a smoking gun for Trump