At a White House press conference last month, a reporter asked Donald Trump, “Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape, or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn?” Trump replied, “No. No. Next question.”Comey, we now know, testified under oath that the president did talk to the then-FBI director about the Flynn case, encouraged him to back off the former White House National Security Advisor, and in the process, added weight to the allegations that the president may have obstructed justice.
By all accounts, there were two people in the Oval Office at the time, creating a “he said, he said” dynamic – at least at first blush. We obviously have Comey’s version of events, bolstered by a contemporaneous memo he prepared at the time. He also shared the details of his interactions with the president with FBI leaders at the time.
But about Trump’s denials? According to one of the president’s adult sons, who helps run Trump’s business and who plays a prominent role in promoting Trump’s political interests, Comey’s version of events may be the accurate one. The Washington Post reported over the weekend:
Soon after former FBI director James B. Comey testified that President Trump told him that he “hoped” the FBI would drop its investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the president’s personal lawyer flatly denied that accusation and said Trump “never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone.”
But Donald Trump Jr. – the president’s eldest son – seemed to confirm Comey’s version of events in a Saturday interview on Fox News as he tried to emphasize the fact that his father did not directly order Comey to stop investigating Flynn.
Trump Jr. specifically said on the air, “When he tells you to do something, guess what? There’s no ambiguity in it, there’s no, ‘Hey, I’m hoping. You and I are friends: Hey, I hope this happens, but you’ve got to do your job.’ That’s what he told Comey.”
According to Comey’s sworn testimony, Trump told him, “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.” During last week’s hearing, Comey added that given the context – this was the president speaking to someone whom he could fire – the former FBI director took the comments “as a direction” from the president about an ongoing federal investigation.
The argument from Trump and his allies is supposed to be that the president didn’t say what Comey claims, but the argument from Donald Trump Jr. is that the president did make those comments, his father’s denials notwithstanding, though they shouldn’t be seen as controversial.
All of which leads to the important follow-up questions: how exactly does Donald Trump Jr. know what the president told Comey in the Oval Office? Did he have a conversation with the president about what was said in private?
Trump’s son, in other words, may very well be a witness.