Apparently the Democratic Party press has anti-Trump stories lined up and ready to drop every two or three days. The latest comes from the New York Times, which headlines: “Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation.”
As usual, the paper’s sources are anonymous moles within the federal bureaucracy, presumably the FBI:
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.
Note that the statement attributed to the president does not support either the reporter’s characterization or the headline. Next comes the reporter’s editorializing:
The existence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.
Has the reporter seen Comey’s memo? No.
The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.
Why only read parts of it? How long can it be?
Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation.
This point is elaborated on later in the story:
But what did Trump actually say?
Mr. Comey had been in the Oval Office that day with other senior national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When the meeting ended, Mr. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.
Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.
Is this in the memo? Apparently not. It sounds as thought the Times is just mixing in some hearsay from one of Comey’s friends at the Bureau. In any event, what Trump said was correct.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.
Mr. Comey did not say anything to Mr. Trump about curtailing the investigation, only replying: “I agree he is a good guy.”
That’s it? “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go”? It may have been ill-advised for the president to say anything to Comey about the Flynn investigation, but “I hope you can see your way clear” is, I think, a thin basis to claim that Trump “asked [Comey] to end the investigation” or “asked … Comey to shut down the federal investigation.”
What seems obvious is that Comey and some of his close associates in the FBI planned to set up President Trump, and have now carried out their plan. But what if Comey hadn’t been fired? Would we have heard anything about the memo, or about alleged efforts by the president to influence the Flynn investigation? Presumably not. The conversation documented by the memo took place in February, and we are only now learning about the memo and Comey’s purported belief that Trump was improperly trying to influence the investigation–a claim that Comey apparently was willing to keep to himself as long as he was retained as FBI Director.
Note that the Times’s account includes a purported explanation of why the memo was kept secret until now:
But wait! Why aren’t Comey’s friends concerned that the very same disclosures, appearing in the newspaper, will now “affect the investigation”? The reporter either didn’t notice the contradiction, or didn’t care.
As described by the Times, the memo indicts James Comey more than it does President Trump, in my opinion. The broader context, of course, is that Donald Trump declared war on the establishment, and the establishment is making war on Trump.