United States President Donald Trump has been embroiled in a controversy following a pair of media reports accusing him of trying to quash a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe against his former National Security Advisor James Flynn, and disclosing highly classified information to Russia.
According to a report published in the New York Times on Tuesday, Trump asked sacked FBI Director James Comey to end the investigation against Flynn.
‘I hope you can let this go,’ the US president told Comey, a memo, written by the former FBI chief, published in the report said.
Comey was abruptly fired at a time when he was leading an investigation into whether Trump’s election campaign had links with Russia’s alleged interference in the US polls.
The request was made by Trump after Flynn resigned as the national security advisor following surfacing of reports that he had maintained links with the Russians.
Sourcing its story based on two people who read the memo, the daily claimed that Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with Trump immediately after the meeting, which took place a day after Flynn resigned.
‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,’ the US president asked Comey.
‘He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,’ Trump had said, adding that Flynn had done nothing wrong.
‘I agree he is a good guy,’ Comey said, according to the memo.
The Washington Post also published a report which alleged that Trump shared ‘highly classified’ information with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during a White House meeting last week.
The report cited current and former US officials, who said the president’s disclosures jeopardised a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.
The revelations swung the White House into action which strongly refuted the allegations.
"While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the resident has never asked Mr Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” a White House official said.
"The president has 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," the official said requesting anonymity.
Last week, FBI Deputy Director McCabe told a Congressional in a testimony that the White House had not interfered with any investigation.
Meanwhile, the opposition Democrats demanded an investigation into the allegations and Trump’s relations with Russia.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said he was shaken by the report in the NYT.
"And we are only one day removed from stunning allegations that the president may have divulged classified information to a known adversary. Concerns about our national security, the rule of law, the independence of our nation’s highest law enforcement agencies are mounting,” he said on the Senate floor.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said if the reports are true, the Trump’s brazen attempt to shut down the FBI investigation is an ‘assault on the rule of law’ that is fundamental to the American democracy.
"At best, President Trump has committed a grave abuse of executive power. At worst, he has obstructed justice. With each passing day, Trump’s actions give greater and greater urgency to the need for a full and independent investigation of the Trump-Russia connection,” she said.
Pelosi said the Democrats will file a discharge petition to demand a vote on the bipartisan bill to establish an independent, outside commission to investigate the president’s ties with Russia.
"Soon, the Democrats will also introduce a legislation to create an independent counsel to get the facts free of President Trump’s meddling,” she said.
"If the President has nothing to hide, then he should welcome independent investigations to remove all doubt of a cover-up. The American people deserve to know what President Trump is so desperate to keep hidden,” she added
Indian American Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi termed the revelations as ‘a serious breach of the law’.
"Today we learned that former FBI director James Comey documented his conversations with President Trump in a series of memos. In one memo, Mr Comey claims that after clearing the room, President Trump asked him to end the investigation of General Michael Flynn. If true, this would be a serious breach of the law,” he said.
"What comes next is uncertain but investigations into this matter must begin, as those into the President’s Russia ties must continue. All the Comey memos should be turned over to Congress, any unclassified memos should be released to the public and President Trump should submit to investigators the tapes with which he threatened Mr Comey,” he demanded.
Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley said this is a ‘blatant abuse of power’, and a thorough, independent, and bipartisan investigation should be completed as quickly as possible.
"If true, Donald Trump’s attempt to influence and intimidate the FBI director to block an investigation is a textbook definition of obstruction of justice and it would be an impeachable offence,” Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said.
"If this continues, the Republicans will lose any remaining credibility,” Jayapal said while calling for an independent investigation into the issue.
IMAGE: US President Donald Trump talks to the media as retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn stands next to him at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters