Washington: President Donald Trump told former FBI director James Comey that he had serious concerns about the judgement of his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, according to memos maintained by Comey and obtained by Associated Press.
The 15 pages of documents contain new details about a series of interactions that Comey had with Trump in the weeks before his May 2017 firing. Those encounters include a White House dinner at which Comey says Trump asked him for his loyalty, and a meeting the following month in which he says the president asked him to end an investigation into Flynn.
According to one memo, Trump complained about Flynn at a private January 2017 dinner with Comey, saying "the guy has serious judgement issues." He then blamed Flynn for a delay in returning the congratulatory call of an international leader.
"I did not comment at any point during this topic and there was no mention or acknowledgment of any FBI interest in or contact with Flynn," Comey wrote.
Flynn was fired a month later after White House officials said he had misled about his Russian contacts during the transition period. In a separate memo, Comey says Trump cleared the Oval Office of other officials, encouraged him to let the investigation into Flynn go and called him a good guy.
In a Senate hearing in June, Comey told Congress, "I knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened, not just to defend myself, but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution and the independence of our investigative function."
The memos were provided to Congress earlier on Thursday as House Republicans escalated criticism of the department, threatening to subpoena the documents and questioning officials. In a letter sent to three Republican House committee chairmen on Thursday evening, Assistant Attorney-General Stephen Boyd wrote that the department was sending a classified version of the memos and an unclassified version. The department released Boyd's letter publicly but did not release the memos.
Justice officials had allowed some lawmakers to view the memos but had never provided copies to Congress. Boyd wrote that the department had also provided the memos to several Senate committees.
Comey is on a publicity tour to promote his new book, A Higher Loyalty. He revealed in 2017 that he had written the memos after conversations with Trump.
Details from some memos were made public in media accounts in the days after he was fired. At the Senate hearing, Comey detailed his conversations with Trump.
One Comey memo recounts a February request from Trump, during a private meeting in the Oval Office, that Comey end an investigation into Flynn.
Boyd wrote in the letter that the department "consulted the relevant parties" and concluded that releasing the memos would not adversely affect any ongoing investigations. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating potential ties between Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign as well as possible obstruction of justice by the president.
Boyd said the decision to allow the release of the memos "does not alter the department's traditional obligation to protect from public disclosure witness statements and other documents obtained during an ongoing investigation."
Comey said in an interview on Thursday with CNN that he's "fine" with the Justice Department turning his memos over to Congress.
"I think what folks will see if they get to see the memos is I've been consistent since the very beginning, right after my encounters with Trump, and I'm consistent in the book and tried to be transparent in the book as well," he said.
Last week, the GOP chairmen of three House committees demanded the memos by Monday. The justice department asked for more time, and the lawmakers agreed.
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Updated Date: Apr 20, 2018 07:25:52 IST