WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/CBS News) — Congress wants to hear from fired FBI Director James Comey, as his memo rocks Washington, D.C. and leads to speculation about the future of the Trump presidency.
As CSB2’s Tony Aiello reported, President Donald Trump again lashed out at the media during a commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut amid the controversy about the blockbuster Comey memo.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” the president allegedly told Comey. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Comey did not drop the investigation. Instead, on March 20, he took the unusual step of publicly confirming it.
Earlier, Trump defended himself.
“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media,” Trump said at the commencement address. “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.”
Trump was in a groove at the commencement as he deftly accepted diplomas without even looking back at the aide slipping them into his hand.
“Over the course of your life you will find that things are not always fair,” Trump said. “You will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted, but you have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight.”
Meanwhile late Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the Comey memo is “not an accurate representation” of the February meeting between Comey and Trump.
The president has admitted the investigation factored into his decision to fire Comey.
Even Republicans are warning of peril for President Trump, with comparisons now being drawn to President Richard Nixon.
“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,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
On the Senate floor before Mueller’s appointment was announced, Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked Republicans to support appointing a special prosecutor.
“Whether or not, in this moment of trial, the Senate is able to rise above partisanship and achieve statesmanship again, history will judge us,” Schumer said.
In both the House and Senate, some Democrats significantly ratcheted up the rhetoric.
“Impeachment!” said Rep. Al Green (D-Texas).
“It’s no small matter when we’re talking about impeaching the president of the United States,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)
“Some people say, ‘Oh my God, she said the word impeachment,’” said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)
But Queens U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) said such talk is premature.
“There needs to be a full investigation first,” Crowley said. “We need to get to the facts. and let the facts lead where they may.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says people must avoid a rush to judgment.
“There’s been a lot of reporting lately I think that requires close examination,” Ryan said. “We need the facts. It is obvious that there are some people out there who want to harm the president. But we have an obligation to carry out our oversight regardless of which party is in the White House. That means before rushing to judgment, we get all the pertinent information.”
Ryan said that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has requested a copy of the memo.
“And I’m sure we’re going to want to hear from Mr. Comey about why, if this happened as he allegedly describes, why didn’t he take action at the time?” Ryan asked. “We can’t deal with speculation and innuendo. There’s clearly a lot of politics being played. Our job is to get the facts and be sober about doing that.”
In an interview Wednesday, Long Island U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) criticized Comey for not reporting Trump’s alleged remarks earlier.
“I believe that Director Comey had an obligation to report that, report to the Justice Department, tell those around him,” King said. “That could be considered a crime, and as director of the FBI, he had an obligation to make that known.”
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country is willing to hand over its records to U.S. lawmakers of President Donald Trump’s talks with two Russian officials at the White House last week.
Trump came under fire earlier this week when a Washington Post report alleged he gave classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
On Wednesday, Putin suggested Russia is willing to hand over its transcripts of the discussion to Congress, CBS News reported. He also dismissed the scandal as “political schizophrenia.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to be briefed by the White House officials who were in the room.
The White House has insisted that the Washington Post report was wrong, and that what was shared was “wholly appropriate” and consistent with routine sharing of information.
Trump took to Twitter Tuesday morning to defend sharing information with the 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,” Trump wrote Tuesday morning, suggesting he did it for “humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”
The Post report said Trump went off script in the meeting and began describing details about an ISIS terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.
The information shared was not collected by U.S. intelligence. Rather, it was given to the U.S. by an ally in the fight against ISIS, and was provided with the understanding that it would not be shared with other countries without permission.
The intelligence was “code-word information,” the Post reported. That’s the term used for intelligence classified at the highest possible level. U.S. officials worry that the disclosure of the information will do serious harm to relations with the ally in question.
CBS News confirmed that at least some of the information that Trump shared with Russia came from the Israelis.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday said the notion of a president telling an FBI director to do away with an investigation of someone who may have colluded with the Russians – as he put it – is beyond anything we have seen in the history of the country.
“I think one of eeriest parts of the last day or two is Vladimir Putin offering to provide evidence in defense of Donald Trump on the espionage question,” de Blasio said. “It’s like he’s taking out a billboard in Times Square saying, ‘I’m trying to help Donald Trump.’”
On Wednesday night, Trump was interviewing candidates to replace Comey at the FBI, including former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. Lieberman told CNN he did not seek or expect to be invited to the interview.