President Trump’s Russian Headache


Image courtesy of the New York Times

Last Wednesday, President Donald Trump caused a great deal of controversy and concern when he fired FBI Director James Comey with over 6 years left in his 10 year term. The dismissal stems from what was apparently an intensely toxic and mutually distrustful relationship. After Comey publicly dismissed Trump’s claims that he was wiretapped, the President angrily told aides that there was “something wrong with” the head of the FBI.

In an administration that values loyalty over almost all else, Comey was an independent presence; his long history of civil service in law enforcement is well documented across career FBI and DOJ employees. There are disputed reports that, during one of the few meetings between Comey and the President in the days after the inauguration, President Trump asked the FBI Director to pledge his loyalty. Comey refused, promising to always be honest, but not loyal or reliable in a political sense. President Trump reportedly pressed him, but was further rebuffed by the Director.

According to a memo leaked on Tuesday, in early February President Trump asked Comey to end his investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s connections to the Russian government. Trump reportedly said “I hope you can let this go,” according to a note written by the FBI Director following the conversation.

This revelation has raised questions from Congressional observers as to the full extent of the President’s interference with the FBI investigation. Chairman of the House Oversight Committee and Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz has requested all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of conversations between the President and Comey.

Comey reportedly kept meticulous notes of all meetings and interactions pertaining to his role as FBI Director, and these notes have historically been accepted by courts as factually sound. The memo was read to the New York Times by a senior official in the FBI, although the full contents have not been leaked. The White House has denied the report in the memo, claiming uncategorically that “the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn” and that the memo is “not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

In light of these revelations, some officials have called for impeachment. However, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican from California, said on Wednesday that he still had “100 percent” confidence in the President despite the allegations. This statement came following a Washington Post report that McCarthy and Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, made statements at a private House Republican meeting asserting that then-candidate Trump may be taking bribes from Russian officials. Spokespersons for the two representatives initially denied the remarks. When the Post revealed that the statements were recorded, Mr. McCarthy told reporters “It’s a bad attempt at a joke; that’s all there is to it.”