FBI asked by Trump to drop Flynn inquiry

FBI asked by Trump to drop Flynn inquiry: The US media has reported that the President Donald Trump had asked FBI chief James Comey to drop an inquiry into links between his ex-national security adviser and Russia. The President in February had asked Mr Comey in a White House meeting: “I hope you can let this go“. This was written in a memo written by the ex-FBI director.

The media reports suggest that the memo was written a day after Michael Flynn the former National Security adviser had resigned. The White House has denied the allegation in a statement saying “The president has never asked Mr Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn.

Mr Flynn had been forced out of his office in February after he had misled the vice-president Mike Pence about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador before President Trump took office. The latest Russian involvement allegation comes after it was first reported in the news and it comes a week after President Trump fired Mr Comey over his handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while at the state department.

The ex-FBI director’s dismissal sent shockwaves throughout Washington. President Trump’s critics had accused him of trying to foil the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the US election and any Moscow ties to President Trump associates.

On 14th February 2017, following a meeting with the president, Mr Comey had reportedly written a memo that revealed that President Trump had asked him to close an investigation into Mr Flynn’s actions. Mr Comey had reportedly shared the memo with top FBI associates. The report suggested that Mr Comey did not respond to his request, according to the memo, but replied: “I agree he is a good guy.” In response to the report, a White House official had pointed out that the acting FBI director Andrew McCabe had testified last week that there had been “no effort to impede our investigation to date“.

The word ‘impeachment’ has already been discussed by politicians who are considered moderate, such as independent Senator Angus King of Maine. Experts say that if this was a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and articles of impeachment would have likely been in the drafting process. However, it is the Republicans that still call the shots in the Congress. It would be a significant leap to get them to abandon the Trump presidency. Nevertheless, some politicians like Senator John McCain say that this scandal has become the “Watergate size and scale” and are clearly wavering. For the rank-and-file of Republicans to turn on the president, it will require them to admit their complicity in a failed presidency.

Mr Flynn’s departure in February had come months after suspicions were raised among intelligence officials. He had resigned as White House national security adviser just after 23 days on the job, amid revelations that he had discussed lifting sanctions on Moscow with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, before President Trump was sworn in. It is illegal in the US law for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy.

After Mr Flynn had stepped down, the Pentagon had launched an investigation into whether Mr Flynn failed to disclose payments from Russian and Turkish lobbyists for speeches and consulting work. The alleged link between Mr Flynn and the Russian is currently under investigation by the FBI and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The investigation is part of wider inquiries into claims that Moscow sought to tip the election in favour of President Trump.

The highest ranked Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff had said that this intervention by President Trump, if correct, amounted to “interference or obstruction of the investigation” While Senator John MCain reportedly at a dinner had said that the Trump scandals had now reached “Watergate size“, 18 US Code Section 1512, which contains a broad definition allowing charges to be brought against someone who “obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so“, is the key legal statute in this case. However Section 1512 requires a person not only to attempt to obstruct justice but to do it with “corrupt” intent, and legal experts have told the Washington Post that is not clear in this case.

The chair of the House Oversight Committee, Republican Jason Chaffetz, has written to the FBI demanding all correspondence relating to communications between Mr Comey and the president.

He has set a deadline of 24 May.

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