As the dust finally settles from the Washington Post story alleging that President Trump leaked classified information to the Russians, a new story is already making the rounds in the media.
Tonight, the New York Times published a story claiming that President Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to end the investigation into Michael Flynn.
From the New York Times:
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.
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.
Not surprisingly, the story relies on sources that claim to have seen the memo, not the memo itself:
Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. 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.
However, the White House is already firing back against the allegations:
In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.
“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the statement said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”
Not only that, the story directly contradicts sworn testimony given by acting FBI Director Andrew G. McCabe:
In testimony to the Senate last week, the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, said, “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.”
The news comes just hours after National Security Adviser H R McMaster was forced to debunk a false story in the Washington Post. In that story, the Post claimed that Trump had leaked highly classified information to the Russians, jeopardizing both national security and the source of the intelligence. However, McMaster and others actually present for the meeting denied such a disclosure took place, while reiterating that no sources or methods were revealed.
Like the Washington Post, the New York Times has taken an adversarial approach to covering the Trump administration, calling any claims the Times makes into question. Many Americans already distrust the media, and are growing tired of new attempts to drum up controversy. In the event that an actual scandal was taking place, it’s unlikely many Americans would believe the claims of these organizations.
Nevertheless, the White House is prepping to take on yet another media controversy. We will have more on this story as it develops.
[Note: This post was written by Michael Lee. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee]