back to top

Here's What The Deputy Attorney General Told Congress About Comey

The White House is battling crises on multiple fronts, as President Donald Trump faces scrutiny for his firing of FBI Director James Comey and his campaign's alleged ties to Russia.

Originally posted on
Updated on

What We Know So Far

  • As President Trump heads abroad after weeks of scandal, join us at our new live updates post here
  • Trump on Thursday said "no, no" when he was asked if he tried to get former FBI Director Comey to back off the agency's investigation into Michael Flynn's possible ties to Russia — Comey said he did in a memo he wrote to top FBI officials. Comey was later fired.
  • "There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign but I can always speak for myself, and the Russians, zero," Trump said.
  • Trump's comments came at his first news conference after the Justice Department appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation.
  • Shortly before the news conference, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein significantly contradicted the White House's claims about Comey's firing. Read all about that in our update below.
  • Despite White House denials, the House Oversight Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee have requested that the FBI turn over the Comey memos and other recordings for review. Senators have also asked Comey to testify both publicly and in private.
  • The Republican Party is growing fed up with the Trump administration moving from scandal to scandal. Some Democrats are already talking impeachment — though leadership thinks it's too soon for that.
  • Two US officials briefed on the matter told BuzzFeed News that Trump revealed highly classified information from Israel concerning ISIS in Syria to two senior Russian diplomats during their visit to the White House last week.

Updates

Posted at

Here's a full rundown of what Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein told Congress about Comey's firing

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told Congress that he had discussed "the need for new leadership at the FBI" with then-Senator Jeff Sessions in the winter of 2016 — prior to the memo he wrote May 8 advising President Trump to remove former FBI Director James Comey.

"Among the concerns that I recall were to restore the credibility of the FBI, respect the established authority of the Department of Justice, limit public statements and eliminate leaks," Rosenstein said.

Rosenstein briefed the Senate yesterday and the House on Friday, and members have been discussing his comments. Later Friday the Justice Department released his full remarks for the first time.

The deputy attorney general also criticized Comey Friday for his decision to hold a July press conference on the the investigation of then-Secretary Clinton's emails, a decision which Rosenstein said "explicitly usurped the role of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General and the entire Department of Justice... [and] violated deeply engrained rules and traditions."

"[I]t guaranteed that some people would accuse the FBI of interfering in the election," he said.

Rosenstein further told Congress he disagreed with Comey's decision to re-open the investigation in October, which he said "again usurped the authority of the Department of Justice, by sending the letter over the objection of the Department of Justice; flouted rules and deeply engrained traditions; and guaranteed that some people would accuse the FBI of interfering in the election."

Still, Rosenstein said that Comey had been a "role model" as Deputy Attorney General and that he "respected him personally."

—Cora Lewis

Posted at

British intelligence sources say Donald Trump's disclosure of highly classified information to Russian officials during a meeting at the White House was "amateurish" and "crass", but insisted it would not stop the UK and other nations sharing material with the US.

BuzzFeed News spoke to four UK intelligence sources, including two former senior officials and an ex-officer, after it emerged that Trump had revealed classified information during a meeting with Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak last week.

The UK sources said it was not unusual for the US to share intelligence with a third country without first coordinating with the country that provided it. But they said it was a new and concerning development that this latest disclosure came direct from the president and may have been unintentional.

Read more.

—Alberto Nardelli and James Ball

Posted at

A misleading tweet warps Comey's congressional testimony

A tweet shared this week by a prominent alt-right figure misrepresents an old clip of former FBI Director James Comey, claiming it's evidence that President Donald Trump did not impede the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The tweet by Jack Posobiec, who works for the right-wing Canadian website The Rebel and previously pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, has now been shared more than 6,000 times.

The tweet posted Wednesday misrepresents what Sen. Mazie Hirono asked Comey on May 3 during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing by highlighting just a portion of the transcript — which conveniently blocked Hirono's question — and linking it to Trump.

"Comey said under oath that Trump did not ask him to halt any investigation - 5/8/17 #ComeyMemo," Posobiec tweeted along with a screenshot of a transcript.

The testimony, however, was actually about the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails, and it had nothing to do with Trump.

Read more here.

—Michelle Broder Van Dyke

Posted at

James Comey, who was ousted last week from his job as FBI director, once tried to camouflage himself in the White House's curtains in order to avoid interacting with President Trump, according to his friend.

The incident happened at a Jan. 22 ceremony Trump held in the White House's Blue Room for law enforcement leaders, the New York Times reported Thursday.

Comey's friend Benjamin Wittes — who spoke to the Times and wrote his own blog post mentioning the incident — said the then-FBI director didn't want to attend the ceremony because he wanted to maintain distance and independence from the White House.

However, Comey felt he couldn't turn down a White House invitation so he went, according to Wittes.

At the ceremony, Comey noticed that the curtains in the room were blue — the same color as his suit. So "he stood in the back, right in front of the drapes, hoping Trump wouldn't notice him camouflaged against the wall," Wittes wrote.

Read more here.

—Jim Dalrymple

Posted at

Some senators say they're worried the Justice Department's appointment of a special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation could effectively halt congressional probes into the matter.

"Congress's ability to conduct investigations of all things Russia has been severely limited," said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chair of a Judiciary subcommittee that has looked into Russia's 2016 election meddling, on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Graham told reporters that committees would now see their access to witnesses and documents restricted, because potential witnesses involved in the FBI investigation could refuse to testify or provide information to avoid incriminating themselves.

Following a nearly two-hour, all-senators briefing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Graham said the appointment of special counsel means Congress is "pretty well knocked out of the game, and that's probably the way it should be."

Read more here.

—Emma Loop

Posted at

President Trump denies pressuring Comey to drop Flynn investigation

Reporter asks if trump asked Comey to shut down Flynn investigation. Trump responds: "No, no, next question"

President Trump on Thursday denied asking former FBI Director James Comey to drop the federal investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

During a press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Trump was asked by a reporter if he had interfered with the investigation.

"No, no. Next question," Trump responded.

According to numerous reports, Comey wrote a memo shortly after meeting with Trump in February detailing the president's request to drop the investigation.

"I hope you can let this go," the president reportedly told Comey, according to the memo.

On Thursday, Trump denied any collusion between himself or his campaign with Russia.

"Even my enemies have said, there is no collusion," Trump said.

The president also claimed Comey was "very unpopular with most people," and pointed to a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as being part of his reason for the dismissal.

However, acting FBI Director Andrew G. McCabe said during a Senate hearing that Comey enjoyed broad support within the agency. And in a previous interview with NBC News, Trump said he had made up his mind to fire Comey before receiving Rosenstein's recommendation.

The president also said Thursday he believed the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation was dividing the country.

"I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt," the told reporters. "Believe me, there is no collusion."

Salvador Hernandez

Posted at

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he learned that FBI Director James Comey would be fired before he was asked by President Trump to write a memo detailing issues with Comey's job performance.

Sen. Claire McCaskill relayed Rosenstein's account of events to reporters following a briefing with the deputy attorney general on Thursday. It marks a departure from the timeline of events as told by the White House, which President Trump himself has already thrown into question.

@LissandraVilla NEW: Sen. Claire McCaskill says Rosenstein said he learned Comey was getting fired BEFORE he wrote… https://t.co/sVlKV5HRSc

By the official administration account, Rosenstein's memo, which focused on Comey's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails, was the primary reason that Trump decided to fire Comey. The memo, as well as a letter by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, were attached to Trump's letter notifying Comey of his termination.

But Rosenstein said he was told that the president planned to fire Comey, then asked to write a memo.

"He stands by everything he wrote in his memo, but he would not discuss his conversations with the president, nor the reasons the president gave for firing Comey," Sen. Chris Murphy said. "He would not discuss any circumstances surrounding the memo."

In an interview with NBC's Lester Holt, Trump said he had been thinking about the Russia investigation when he fired Comey.

"And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said 'you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won'," Trump said.

Trump also called Comey a showboater and said he had wanted to fire him for some time.

—Claudia Koerner and Lissandra Villa Huerta

Posted at

President Trump said Thursday that former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman was among the top finalists in his search for a new FBI director.

While meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Trump told reporters that he is "very close" to picking James Comey's replacement. Asked if Lieberman was a frontrunner, Trump emphatically said "yes."

Lieberman, a former Democratic vice-presidential nominee, met with the president at the White House on Wednesday. Politico reported that Trump bonded with the retired senator, who ran with Al Gore in 2000 and now works at the same law firm as Marc Kasowitz, Trump's lawyer in New York.

—Brianna Sacks

Posted at

The inquiry into Trump campaign ties to Russia is a criminal investigation, senator says

All-senators briefing on Comey's firing happening now with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Reporters wait.

Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters on Thursday that the special counsel's investigation into potential collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia should be considered a criminal investigation.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was scheduled to brief senators on Thursday about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

But Graham told reporters that Rosenstein told them that subject would be "something [special counsel] Robert Mueller will speak on, not him."

Graham's comments seemed to indicate that Mueller, in the course of his investigation into ties between the Trump administration and Russia, would also look into Comey's firing.

Graham also told reporters that the "biggest legal change" Rosenstein presented to senators is that Mueller would proceed with the investigation "with the idea of a criminal investigation versus a counterintelligence investigation."

"There was no facts presented as to why you would change that," he said. "Everything [Rosenstein] said was that you need to treat this investigation as if it may be a criminal investigation."

—Sarah Mimms and Claudia Koerner

Posted at

Despite questions surrounding Michael Flynn's connections to Russia and the Department of Justice's alert that he could, as a result, be susceptible to blackmail President Trump has reportedly told aides he wants the former national security advisor back in the White House, the Daily Beast reported.

Flynn has become a central figure in the investigation into possible Russian connections to the Trump campaign, which has ramped up with the appointment of a special counsel.

With that, so have questions over the nature of Trump's relationship with Flynn, particularly after reports that the president pushed for Flynn's appointment as national security advisor despite being told he was under federal investigation. Trump later allegedly asked former FBI Director James Comey to drop his investigation into the former Army lieutenant general.

On Thursday, NBC News' Peter Alexander also reported that the Trump family had a "blind spot" when it came to Flynn, who offered his support of presidential candidate early on in the election.

EXCLUSIVE: Trump family had "blind spot when it came to Flynn," per source. New details re mtg where Flynn asked fo… https://t.co/SVfpQC5YF8

Alexander reported that after Flynn made it clear he wanted to be national security advisor, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner told him the president-elect would approve of the request.

The White House, however, has disputed that account.

According to the Daily Beast, Trump has told aides he hopes that not only will Flynn be cleared by the ongoing investigation, but that he may rejoin his administration.

—Salvador Hernandez

Posted at

Trump slams appointment of special counsel, says it "hurts our country terribly"

President Trump criticized the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia's influence on last year's election, calling it a "negative thing" that shows a "very divided country."

Trump made the comments during a luncheon with TV news anchors, several of whom later shared the president's responses to questions. In response to a question from ABC World News anchor David Muir, Trump said that appointing former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel "hurts our country terribly, because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not unified country."

Trump went on to say that the US has "very important things to be doing right now," then blamed Democrats for the controversies plaguing his administration and the resulting Russia probe.

"It also happens to be a pure excuse for the Democrats having lost an election that they should have easily won because of the Electoral College being slanted so much in their way," the president said. "That's all this is. I think it shows division, and it shows that we're not together as a country. And I think it's a very, very negative thing. And hopefully, this can go quickly, because we have to show unity if we're going to do great things with respect to the rest of the world."

Speaking at a joint news conference with Colombian President Juan Manual Santos, Trump reiterated his opinion that Russian probe was a "witch hunt" that "divides the country."

"I think we have a very divided country because of that, and many other things," he said. "So I can tell you that we want to bring this great country of ours together."

— Jim Dalrymple II

Posted at

After telling reporters Thursday that Michael Flynn would ignore a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence committee, Sen. Richard Burr said that he misspoke.

"General Flynn's attorneys have not yet indicated their intentions regarding the Senate Intelligence Committee's subpoena," Burr, who chairs the committee, said in a statement Thursday afternoon, contradicting his earlier comments. "Consistent with the Committee's position since the beginning of or investigation, I welcome their willingness to cooperate."

The committee announced it had issued the subpoena on May 10, requesting that Flynn provide any documents related to his interactions with Russian officials. The subpoena came after Flynn refused to comply with a previous request for documents, the committee said.

"I'm not sure the statement about his non-compliance is fully accurate," Sen. Mark Warner, the leading Democrat on the committee, told reporters responding to Burr's initial statement that Flynn would not comply with the subpoena. Warner added that he was still getting the facts.

Warner said that he believes that Flynn and his lawyers still have a few days left to respond to the subpoena.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said he was unsurprised by reports that Flynn would not comply with the subpoena. "If I were his lawyer, I'd probably be making the argument that if I'm under criminal investigation, you cannot force me to compromise myself," Graham said.

It's unclear what ramifications ignoring the subpoena could have for Flynn, should he decide not to comply. Politico has a bit of an explainer on this:

When an obstinate subject decides to dig in, congressional subpoenas often don't succeed. And when lawmakers vote to hold someone in contempt of Congress, the cases frequently end up in court, sometimes stalled for years. Other times, members of Congress have avoided a showdown altogether, recognizing the limits of their authority.

Meanwhile, Yahoo reported that President Trump is still in touch with Flynn, at least as of late April:

"I just got a message from the president to stay strong," Flynn said after the meal was over, according to two sources who are close to Flynn and are familiar with the conversation, which took place on April 25.

President Donald Trump fired Flynn just 24 days into the presidency after it was revealed that Flynn misled Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

—Emma Loop

Posted at

President Trump reacted angrily on Twitter early Thursday to the news that the Justice Department had appointed a special counsel to head the Russia probe.

"With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel appointed!" he wrote, misspelling the word 'counsel.'

"This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!" he added in a subsequent tweet. (The decision to appoint a special counsel was made by Trump's own deputy attorney general).

The Twitter missives came 12 hours after the White House released a more measured statement from the president:

As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.

Roughly 10 minutes before he sent his first tweet, a guest on the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends complained that no special counsel was ever appointed to investigate President Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Trump frequently takes inspiration for his tweets from the morning cable news shows.

—David Mack

Posted at

Chaffetz: "Where is the actual crime they think they need a special prosecutor to prosecute?"

REP. CHAFFETZ: Where is the actual crime that Democrats think we need a special prosecutor to prosecute? I haven't… https://t.co/Yua5BLQqcj

The Republican chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform late Wednesday praised the selection of Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russian meddling in the US election, but said he has seen no actual evidence of collusion with the Trump campaign.

Speaking on Fox News, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah said Mueller was "unassailable in terms of his credentials," but added that he was surprised by the appointment.

"It doesn't get any better than Robert Mueller," he said. "I also agree I don't think they should have appointed somebody."

"I think they are feeling the political heat. Maybe they are watching too much television and reading too many newspapers and whatnot," he said.

"I have not seen any evidence of actual collusion. Where is the actual crime they think they need a special prosecutor to prosecute?"

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski also told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that Mueller was someone "with credibility."

"At least what we have now is the opportunity to have a clean slate and show nothing took place," he said. "I think that's what the president ultimately wants. He has said time and again nothing took place, and this is the opportunity to prove that nothing took place."

Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway had been scheduled to appear on Carlson's program, but she canceled shortly before airtime.

"I do believe there is some chaos going on in the White House. I've experienced it first hand," said Carlson. "You call over there and it's not clear exactly what's going on."

—David Mack

Posted at

Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump made at least 18 calls and emails to Russians during the final seven months of the 2016 presidential campaign, Reuters reported Thursday, citing "three current and former [US] officials."

Six of the contacts were calls between Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Trump associates, including Flynn, according to the report.

"Those discussions focused on mending U.S.-Russian economic relations strained by sanctions imposed on Moscow, cooperating in fighting Islamic State in Syria and containing a more assertive China, the sources said," Reuters reported.

The Trump campaign had initially denied any contacts with Russian officials during the election, but members including Attorney General Jeff Sessions have since admitted to communications and meetings.

"It's rare to have that many phone calls to foreign officials, especially to a country we consider an adversary or a hostile power," Richard Armitage, a Republican and former state department official, told Reuters.

Trump fired Flynn as national security adviser in February after it emerged he lied to White House officials about contacts he had with Kislyak during the transition period.

Trump allegedly suggested to former FBI Director James Comey that he drop an investigation into Flynn, according to a memo Comey wrote. Trump later fired Comey, setting off a political firestorm that has plunged his administration deeper into chaos.

—David Mack

Posted at

President Trump's transition team knew that Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, the New York Times reported.

Flynn first told the transition team's lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, that he was being investigated on Jan. 4, about a month after the Justice Department notified Flynn about the probe, according to the Times. Though it's unclear as to when Trump found out about the investigation, this revelation means the president's team was made aware far earlier than previously stated.

At a White House press briefing on March 9, press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump was not aware that Flynn had lobbied for Turkey before appointing him.

Trump, who fired Flynn about a month into his term, had initially ignored warnings by acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who told the White House the then–national security adviser could be blackmailed by Russia for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to Washington.

—Brianna Sacks

Posted at

Trump responds to special counsel appointment, says there was "no collusion"

President Trump responded to the Justice Department's appointment of a special council to oversee the Russia investigation, saying he expects a quick resolution.

"As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity," Trump said in a statement. "I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country."

Trump's statement came less than two hours after the Justice Department appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller to look into Russia's influence in the 2016 presidential election.

—Jim Dalrymple II

Posted at

Justice Department appoints special counsel to oversee Russia probe

Evan Vucci / AP

Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller smiles as he speaks at the Justice Department in 2013.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election, ending weeks of speculation about how he would respond to the growing chorus of lawmakers and advocacy groups calling for such a move.

In his announcement, Rosenstein named former FBI director Robert Mueller.

The decision about whether to appoint a special prosecutor was Rosenstein's to make, not Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions is recused from any investigations into matters related to the 2016 election, per a recusal policy that he announced in March.

Rosenstein wouldn't commit to appointing a special counsel for the Russia probe at his confirmation hearing in early March, saying that he couldn't make such a pledge without all the facts. He defended the department's ability to conduct an independent investigation, but said that he would "ensure that every investigation is conducted independently."

Read more here.

—Zoe Tillman

Posted at

House hearing scheduled for Comey, as McConnell calls for public testimony

Officially noticed a hearing for next Wed at 9:30am ET with former FBI Dir Comey. But I still need to speak with him...evidently has a new #

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, on Wednesday said he had scheduled a hearing for fired FBI Director James Comey to testify.

Chaffetz said the hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, May 24, at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Comey has also been asked to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Utah congressman, however, said he has been unable to speak directly with Comey.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Wall Street Journal Comey needs to testify publicly as soon as possible.

"I think we need to hear from him as soon as possible in public to respond to the issues that have been raised in recent days," McConnell said.

In a statement to the newspaper, the senator's office added: "It's appropriate and timely for the Senate to hear directly from former Director James Comey in a public setting as part of the Senate Intelligence Committee's ongoing investigation."

—David Mack

Posted at

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Wednesday they had written to the FBI and the White House seeking documentation of meetings between President Trump and fired FBI Director James Comey.

The announcement came less than an hour after the Senate Intelligence Committee went public with a similar request.

In a letter to Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, the Senate Judiciary Committee referred to Tuesday's bombshell report from the New York Times that Comey wrote an internal memo that Trump had asked him to stop investigating former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

The committee called on McCabe to provide them with "all such memos, if they exist," related to Comey's meeting with presidents Trump and Obama, attorneys general Jeff Sessions and Loretta Lynch, and deputy attorneys general Rod Rosenstein, Dana Boente, and Sally Yates regarding Russian ties to Trump associates or the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

In a separate letter to White House counsel Donald McGahn, the committee asked for "all White House recordings" of interactions between Trump and Comey, "including all records, transcripts, notes summaries, and memoranda."

The president last week tweeted that there may be "tapes" of his interactions with Comey — a statement the White House has since refused to elaborate on.

—David Mack

Posted at

A moderate Republican senator said Wednesday she is considering supporting an independent commission or special prosecutor to investigate Russia and the Trump administration.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said in a statement that she has been "concerned about the continuous and often conflicting reports about President Trump, the FBI, and Russia."

"The American people deserve to know the truth," she said.

Murkowski said she still believes the Senate Intelligence Committee should continue with its own investigation, but added that she was open to considering another independent probe.

"It's imperative that we — Congress, the FBI, the administration — work to restore the public's trust," she said. "In order to gain that credibility, it may be that we need to look to an independent commission or special prosecutor."

—David Mack

Posted at

Trump complains to cadets he's the most unfairly treated politician in history

President Trump: "No politican in history ...has been treated worse or more unfairly."

In his speech to the 2017 graduates of the United States Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut on Wednesday, President Trump said that "no politician in history" had been treated worse than him.

"Look at the way I've been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can't let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams."

"Over the course of your life, you will find that things are not always fair," he told the graduating cadets. "You will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted. You have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight."

"Never ever ever give up. Things will work out just fine," he said.

—Ellie Hall

Posted at

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday announced they have requested former FBI Director James Comey testify before them in both open and closed sessions.

Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Democrat Sen. Mark Warner said in a statement that they had also written to Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe "seeking any notes or memorandum prepared by the former Director regarding any communications he may have had with senior White House and Department of Justice officials related to investigations into Russia's effort [to influence the US election]."

Warner told reporters at the Capitol that he expects McCabe to respond within 72 hours and hopes Comey will testify "soon."

"I can imagine after kind of what he's been through that taking a week to chill out would seem appropriate," he said. "But my expectation is that we'll hear something early next week about whether he'll accept our invitation."

"We'd like to understand the content of the memos, we'd like to hear his testimony as to conversations he's had with the president," said Burr.

Warner said he wants to examine the Comey memo first, before deciding whether to release it publicly.

"The chairman and I told our staff, you know, in light of everything that's going on this week, we need to put the pedal the metal," he said.

—David Mack and Emma Loop

Posted at

Two Republican lawmakers have suggested they could support impeachment of President Donald Trump if it is proved he tried to pressure FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.

Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan told The Hill that if the contents of the memo are correct then the behavior would merit impeachment.

"But everybody gets a fair trial in this country," he added.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida told the Independent Journal Review that the reports of the memo were "deeply, deeply troubling and disconcerting, and it would open a new chapter of scandal" for the administration.

When asked if he would support impeachment proceedings if the reports were confirmed, Curbelo nodded, according to the IJR.

"It depends on the facts. If there was any obstruction of justice, that would obviously rise to that level," he said.

—David Mack

Posted at

Paul Ryan says "now is the time to get all pertinent information"

Ryan: "There are a lot of unanswered questions. What I told our members is now is the time to get all the pertinent… https://t.co/B5FPyzGzOK

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday there are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the James Comey memo, including why, if things happened as the former FBI director allegedly described, didn't he take action at the time.

"The last thing I'm going to do is prejudge anything," Ryan said. "I'm a person who wants to get the facts."

The House Speaker said that before rushing to judgment, Congress must solely focus on gathering all of the pertinent information and drown out the speculation and innuendo, as well as the "politics being played."

"There are some people out there who want to harm the president," Ryan said. "We have an obligation to carry out our oversight, regardless of which party is in the White House."

"I'm sure we're going to go on to hear from Mr. Comey about why, if this happened as he allegedly describes, why didn't he take action at the time? There are a lot of unanswered questions," Ryan said.

—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos

Posted at

Trump Jr. defends father on Twitter

Donald Trump Jr., the president's oldest son, on Wednesday defended his father against criticism he may have obstructed justice by requesting FBI Director James Comey drop an inquiry into his former associate, Michael Flynn.

Trump Jr. shared a tweet from Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera which read, "News Flash, @realDonaldTrump hoping @JamesComeyFBI cuts @MikeFlynn some slack because he is a 'good man' is not close to #Obstruction."

"Truth," the president's son wrote.

—David Mack

Posted at

WASHINGTON — Democrats are warming up to the idea of impeaching President Trump, as opposition to the president drowns out all other causes in the party.

Elected Democrats have to date shied away from progressive activists' demands that the party focus explicitly to removing the president. And Democrats, who are in the minority in both houses, can't actually impeach a president without significant Republican support.

But the Democrats gathered here Tuesday in the heart of the progressive establishment are beginning to speak openly about turning midterm elections into a referendum on whether Trump should finish his term.

Read more here.

—Lissandra Villa

Posted at

Vladimir Putin says Trump did not give confidential information to Russian officials

Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed reports Donald Trump gave confidential information to Russian officials during a White House visit.

Putin said Wednesday that Russia was willing to hand over Senate records of Trump's talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov if the White House approved, the Associated Press reported.

He called all the talk surrounding the reports "political schizophrenia" and said US politicians were "stupid" or "dangerous" for spreading anti-Russian sentiments.

Putin said some US politicians, who he did not name, were "causing the damage to their own country."

Posted at

It wasn't his strained defense of the "wholly appropriate" conversations between Russian officials and President Donald Trump, or even the fact that he, a general, was standing at the White House podium that rattled longtime fans.

Rather, it was that Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser, was a current military officer when he stood before the American public and aggressively defended a president during a political crisis — and that he leaned on his credibility as a military general to do so.

"There is no way he is going to be able to live up to the ideals he wrote in his book with this president," one longtime military observer told BuzzFeed News.

Read more here.
—Nancy A. Youssef

Posted at

Republican Sen. John McCain said the scandals coming from the Trump White house, including reports the president asked the FBI director to stop an investigation into Mike Flynn, have reached "Watergate size and scale."

McCain, a former presidential candidate, made the comments Tuesday at a dinner where he was being recognized by the International Republican Institute.

"I think we've seen this movie before," McCain told the largely Republican crowd. "I think it's reaching the point where it's of Watergate size and scale and a couple of other scandals that you and I have seen."

@SenJohnMcCain at IRI dinner now- "We've seen this movie before. It's reaching Watergate size and scale....This is not good for the country"

McCain just said at a dinner honoring him that the Trump scandals have reached a "Watergate size and scale" -- wow

McCain made the comment after a New York Times report was published that said former FBI director James Comey wrote a memo after a meeting with Trump where the president asked him to drop an FBI investigation into Flynn.

"None of us, no matter what our political leanings are, no matter how we feel about Trump, feel this is good for America," McCain said.

McCain also criticized the president for welcoming Russian diplomat Sergey Lavrov into the White House last week, saying Lavrov was a murderer and hosting him at the Oval Office was "unacceptable."

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

Salvador Hernandez

Posted at

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday sent a letter to the FBI requesting all memos and recordings related to any communication between the agency's fired director James Comey and President Trump.

In a letter to the FBI's acting director, Andrew McCabe, the committee's Republican chairman, Jason Chaffetz, cited media reports that one memo detailed the president asking Comey to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

"If true, these memoranda raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede the FBI's investigation," Chaffetz wrote.

The request for the documents came just hours after the New York Times reported the existence of the memo, in which Comey reportedly recalls Trump telling him in the Oval Office "I hope you can let this go" regarding the Flynn investigation.

The FBI was asked to hand over the documents to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee no later than May 24.

Salvador Hernandez

Posted at

Exhausted from having to keep up with self-inflicted crises that detract from their legislative agenda, Republicans on Capitol Hill are slowly starting to break from President Trump, demanding more information from the White House, which they say has kept them in the dark on potentially leaked classified material.

In a new development in the Trump era, several Republicans are making the political calculation that defending the president before they have all the relevant information might not be in their best interest.

Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, who represents a swing district in the Washington, DC, suburbs and is considered among the most vulnerable House Republicans in 2018, went as far as anybody in a statement, following the Washington Post report about Trump discussing classified information with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in the Oval Office.

"Once again we are faced with inexplicable stories coming from the White House that are highly troubling," she said.

Read more here.

—Tarini Parti, Alexis Levinson, and Adrian Carrasquillo

Posted at

Congressional leaders say they're going to get Comey's memo

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Tuesday he would file a subpoena to get a copy of former FBI Director Jim Comey's memo that recounted attempts by President Trump to stop the investigation into his campaign's possible ties to Russia.

".@GOPOversight is going to get the Comey memo, if it exists," Chaffetz tweeted on Tuesday. "I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready."

The existence of the memo was reported by the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and other media outlets.

.@GOPoversight is going to get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.

Democrats in the House agreed that it was necessary to get the memo immediately, as well as any related documents — as well as "tapes" that Trump has threatened exist of his meeting with Comey.

The reported attempts by Trump to shut down investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's ties to Russia required immediate action from Congress, said Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.

"This is an explosive allegation, and it appears like a textbook case of criminal obstruction of justice," he said in a statement. "We need to hear testimony immediately from Director Comey  —  in public."

Democrats on the Oversight Committee went on to request a joint investigation into whether Trump and other officials were involved in obstructing the work of the FBI and Department of Justice.

"It is unacceptable to continue ignoring these scandals," their letter said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Burr, chair of the Senate intelligence committee, questioned why the information reportedly contained in the memo was only coming out now. Burr, a Republican, is leading the Senate's inquiry into Russian meddling into the 2016 election.

Burr said the New York Times and other media outlets had a responsibility to obtain and release a copy of the memo to prove its existence. A spokesperson later added Burr would also work to find more information related to Tuesday's reports.

"The Committee relies on facts to guide the investigation," the statement said. "Sen. Burr will follow relevant leads, but the Committee has not seen what the New York Times reported today. It certainly raises questions and he will follow up on acquiring those facts from credible sources."

—Claudia Koerner

Posted at

President Trump in February asked former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, according to a short memo Comey reportedly wrote detailing the Oval Office conversation.

The memo was one of several Comey created that detailed conversations and interactions with the president in what he believed were improper attempts to influence the FBI's investigation, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

"I hope you can let this go," Trump reportedly told Comey, according to the memo, which was read to, not viewed by, a Times reporter.

The memo was a two-page, highly-detailed account of Comey's interaction with Trump on Feb. 14, according to the Washington Post, which also confirmed the memo, as did NBC, CNN, and other news outlets.

After the New York Times story was published, the White House insisted the president has never asked Comey to end any investigation, including into Flynn.

"The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations," officials said. "This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey."

A Department of Justice spokeswoman declined to comment on what happened to any records Comey created once he was fired.

When asked about the Times report, Flynn's attorney, Robert Kelner, told BuzzFeed News, "We decline to comment."

After Comey was fired by Trump, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told a Senate committee last week that there had been no White House effort to impede the FBI's investigation into Russia.

But according to the Times, Comey was at the White House Feb. 14 with other national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. Trump then asked all others in the room, including Vice President Mike Pence, to leave him alone with Comey.

During that conversation, according to the report, Trump suggested to Comey he should jail reporters for publishing classified information. He then began to speak with the FBI director about his agency's investigation into Flynn.

Comey wrote the memo immediately after the meeting, the Times reported, and then shared it with senior FBI officials.

The FBI officials decided to keep the conversation secret so it would not affect the ongoing investigation into Flynn and Russia.

Shortly after the report was published, Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said he wants Comey to return to Congress to testify.

If the report is true, Schiff said, it raised the possibility that the president tried to obstruct an investigation, he told reporters.

"I think we know enough now," Schiff said. "There's been enough alleged publicly to want to bring the director back to testify, ideally in an open session before our committee or judiciary committee."

Schiff said the committee should also also request for the notes taken or made shortly after Comey's meetings and discussions with Trump.

"Enough is enough," he said. "Congress really needs to get to the bottom of this."

The Committee for Freedom of the Press also released a statement after news of the report leaked Tuesday, calling President Trump's suggestion to jail journalists "a dangerous line."

"No president gets to jail journalists," the statement read. "The president's remarks should not intimidate the press but inspire it."

As news of Comey's memo spread Tuesday afternoon, Trump — via the email address he used during the campaign — apparently attempted to raise money from the latest series of scandals. The email, which includes a request to contribute $1 to "drain the swamp," began by saying the "media was out to get us," adding that "there are people within our own unelected bureaucracy that want to sabotage President Trump and our entire America First movement."

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Congress should subpoena Comey's memos, transcripts of conversations, and any tapes Trump may have recorded during his meetings with the former FBI director.

"And we may well have another United States vs. Nixon if the president resists providing them," he told reporters. "I think it's absolutely stunning that anybody could be this brazen."

He also reiterated his call for a special prosecutor to be appointed.

"You're watching an obstruction of justice investigation developing in real time," Blumenthal said. "I'm just staggered by this really, very threatening situation (...) I think our democracy is on a precipice."

Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer also urged legislators to act.

"The country is being tested and unprecedented ways," Schumer said. "I say to all of my colleagues, in the Senate, history is watching."

—Salvador Hernandez

Posted at

In an off-camera press briefing Tuesday White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeated national security adviser, H.R. McMaster's earlier comments that the president was not aware of the source of classified information and suggesting he released it "defies logic."

"It would be impossible for the president to release that information," Spicer said He wasn't aware of the source … to suggest he revealed it is impossible."

Spicer said the last week's meeting included a discussion about "a shared aviation threat."

The press secretary would not say whether the information Trump shared with Russia was classified, adding that getting into "what is or was isn't classified is a very dangerous road."

Spicer went on to say that leaks to the media are "frankly dangerous."

"You have to question why it was done," Spicer said about the leak. "You've got to wonder why it was done and who did it."

—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos

Posted at

SAN FRANCISCO — Two Israeli intelligence officials confirmed to BuzzFeed News Tuesday that Israel had shared specific intelligence with the US regarding ISIS plots to smuggle explosive laptops onto planes, under the unique intelligence-sharing agreement the two countries maintain.

The revelation that Trump had shared that intelligence with Russian officials was Israel's "worst fears confirmed," said one of the intelligence officers.

"We have an arrangement with America which is unique to the world of intelligence sharing. We do not have this relationship with any other country," said the officer, who spoke to BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity as he was not granted permission to speak to the press.

"There is a special understanding of security cooperation between our countries," they said. "To know that this intelligence is shared with others, without our prior knowledge? That is, for us, our worst fears confirmed."

The Israeli officials who spoke to BuzzFeed News said there has already been a push to stop sharing Israel's most sensitive intelligence with Trump's White House. It was Israel's political echelons, they added, who insisted the intelligence-sharing continue, and who were hoping to use Trump's mistakes as a way to gain leverage.

Read more here.

—Sheera Frenkel

Posted at

Trump said the meeting where he disclosed classified intelligence to Russians was "great"

Trump calls his meeting with the Russians, where he revealed highly classified intelligence, a “great meeting.” Ign… https://t.co/nZWhRYTpm6

Reporters shouted questions after Trump's joint appearance with Turkish President Recep Erdoğan, and after a slight pause Trump made a general statement about his disclosing highly classified intelligence to the Russians during their White House visit.

Here's what Trump said before ignoring further questions and leaving:

We had a very, very successful meeting with the foreign minister of Russia. Our fight is against ISIS, as general McMaster said, I thought he said and I know he feels that we had actually a great meeting with the foreign ministers. So we're going to have a lot of great success over the next coming years and we want to get as many to help fight terrorism as possible. And that's one of the beautiful things that's happening with Turkey, the relationship that we have together will be unbeatable. So thank you all very much. I appreciate it. We're going to meetings.

—Tom Namako

Posted at

Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said Tuesday that the president was not aware of the source of the classified information he shared with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister last week.

"I should just make maybe the statement here that the president wasn't even aware where this information came from," McMaster said. "He wasn't briefed on the source or method of the information either."

Earlier in the briefing, McMaster insisted that what the president did was "wholly appropriate" and "in no way compromised any sources or methods."

Deflecting question about why he appeared to contradict the president's tweets about disclosing confidential information to the Russian ambassador, McMaster said his statements on Monday evening were about how the president's actions were within the parameters of maintaining national security.

"I stand by my statement that I made yesterday what I'm saying is the premise of that article is false that in any way the president had a conversation that was inappropriate or that resulted in any kind of lapse in national security," McMaster said.

The real issue, McMaster told reporters, the issue that should be "debated more," is that "our national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality and those releasing information to the press that could be used connected with other information available to make American citizens and others more vulnerable."

—Talal Ansari

Posted at

BRUSSELS — An intelligence official in an EU country says that Trump's impromptu briefing to the Russian foreign minister could undermine future attempts to recruit spies and informants.

"This is so terrible, nightmarish," the official, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about intelligence matters, told BuzzFeed News.

"This is not the first time that allies have seen strange things in the Oval Office," the official said, referring to the firing of former FBI director James Comey and the presence of a Russian photographer attending Trump's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Those actions, paired with the latest scandal, demonstrates "that the president is ill-capacitated, narcissistic, or even collaborating," the official said. "All this seriously undermines the trust of allies, and also the trust of current and potential recruits and informants."

The latter is the more serious problem, the official said, as recruits and informants "put their life on the line, literally, especially in [ISIS] and Russian areas, so they take an enormously huge risk when they start collaborating. If they are not confident enough that their back is safe, then they are not going to consider joining and helping US services."

"I am sure the Russians are playing this 'funny' game with Trump on purpose, in order to disrupt the recruiting potential and capacities of US services," the official said. "This is so classic, out of the manual."

—Mitch Prothero

Posted at

Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that there needs to be "less drama" from the White House.

Speaking to Bloomberg TV, McConnell responded to the Washington Post report that said that Trump had revealed highly classified information to two Russian officials during a White House meeting last week. The White House has said the story is false which the president appeared to contradict in a series of tweets Tuesday.

"I read the Washington Post story and I read Gen. McMaster's response, which tends to refute the story, to rebut the story," McConnell said. "I think we can do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things."

McConnell didn't confirm or deny the existence of the "tapes" of conversations between Trump and Comey which the president has suggested might exist.

When asked if the intelligence committee leading the Russia probe should have access to the "tapes," McConnell said that Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Mark Warner, who are handling the investigation, would "decide what they need."

"The rest of us need to concentrate on what comes next. We need to have a great choice for the FBI director and I anticipate the president will do that and move on," he said.

McConnell said that he had spoken to Trump and recommended Merrick Garland for FBI director. "It may be a surprise to people but he has a deep background in criminal law," McConnell said, adding that Garland had no history of political involvement and was a "genuine expert."

"I think it would make it clear that President Trump will continue the tradition of the FBI of having an apolitical professional."
—Tasneem Nashrulla

Posted at

Republican senator compares Trump administration to "kiddie soccer"

Republican @BenSasse: “governing tweet storm to tweet storm is not a sustainable strategy.” “It just feels like k… https://t.co/hC20N4lxtf

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, compared the chaos in Trump's administration to "kiddie soccer."

Sasse, a frequent critic of Trump during the campaign, slammed Trump's governing style, saying, "governing tweet storm to storm is not a sustainable strategy."

He said that the "smart" and "honorable" people in the White House had a really hard job "because it feels like kiddie soccer most days."

—Tasneem Nashrulla

Posted at

Trump is back to blaming the leakers of classified information

I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community.....

In his Tuesday morning Twitter rant, Trump returned his common tactic to distract from negative press: criticizing people who leak information.

Trump tweeted the above message at 8:10 a.m. ET. As of 8:57 a.m. he still hadn't completed the thought.

Trump has repeatedly tried to deflect from major stories about his administration by blasting the people who are leaking information to reporters.

In the most recent controversy, though, it's Trump himself who disclosed highly classified information to top Russians.

—Tom Namako

Posted at

Russian officials deny reports Trump revealed classified information

Russian state media agency Interfax has reported President Vladimir Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, called reports that Trump revealed classified information to senior officials in the White House last week "nonsense" that did not require confirmation or denial.

Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has also denied the reports.

In a post on Facebook, Zakharova described the reports as "yet another fake." "People shouldn't read American papers. You can do other things with them but you shouldn't read them," Zakharova wrote.

—Alicia Melville-Smith

Posted at

Trump says he has "absolute right" to share facts with Russians

As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining....

...to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.

President Trump has said it is his "absolute right" to share information related to "terrorism and airline flight safety" with Russia.

The president said in a pair of tweets posted early Tuesday morning that it was his "absolute right" to share "facts related to terrorism and airline safety" during his meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador at the White House last week.

He also tweeted that he wants Russia to do more in the fight against ISIS.

Trump's tweets do not deny that he shared highly sensitive intelligence during the meeting, as revealed by the Washington Post and confirmed to BuzzFeed News by two US officials on Monday.

On Monday evening, Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster appeared to contradict Trump and said that at no time in the meeting "were any intelligence sources or methods discussed," and McMaster's deputy Dina Powell said the Washington Post story was "false."

—Francis Whittaker