WASHINGTON — Capitol Hill Republicans are increasingly joining their Democratic colleagues in demanding answers in the wake of reports alleging President Donald Trump asked now-ousted FBI Director James Comey to abandon a Russia-related probe into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The GOP-led Senate intelligence and judiciary committees on Wednesday instructed the FBI to turn over any memos Comey kept on Trump, one of which the New York Times first said details how the president during a February meeting personally appealed for an end to the Flynn investigation.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made his first public remarks on the memo reports, telling the Wall Street Journal of Comey: “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.”
The memo reports are only the latest of Kremlin-related controversies beleaguering the Trump White House. The president also reportedly shared sensitive intelligence about an Islamic State threat to senior Russian diplomats during their Oval Office meeting last week, according to the Washington Post. Administration officials haven’t denied that he revealed classified information, but said he acted in the interest of national security and alliance-building.
Trump himself had not directly addressed the memo reports as of Wednesday evening, not even in tweets. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters the Times report “is not an accurate representation of that meeting.”
Earlier in the day, Trump, in a commencement speech, lamented what he said was historical mistreatment by the news media and urged graduates to “fight, fight, fight” as he is.
“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media,” he said at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy ceremony in New London, Connecticut. “No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down. You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams.”
“Adversity makes you stronger,” said the president, who also commended the Coast Guard’s commitment to serving and defending the country.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is seeking from the FBI any memos Comey kept on both the Trump administration and that of former President Barack Obama. They also asked the White House for any recordings it may have relating to Comey.
Trump warned in a tweet last week that he may have “tapes” of a conversation with Comey.
The Senate Intelligence Committee requested any Comey memos about the Trump White House and Department of Justice and asked the fired director to testify in open and closed session.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, on Tuesday had asked for any memos and on Wednesday invited Comey to a hearing next week. Comey has not yet accepted.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) stayed squarely in Trump’s corner, saying he has confidence in the president.
“It is obvious there are some people out there that want to harm the president, but we have an obligation to carry out our oversight regardless of which party is in the White House,” Ryan said.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) noted to MSNBC that Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified to a Senate panel last week that there had not been interference into the Russia probe. King asked why Comey hadn’t reported any Trump behavior he may have considered inappropriate.
“I just wish that if this meant so much to Director Comey, that he would have at least told the Senate or the House intelligence committees or told his own deputy director,” King said.