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While the White House has denied any wrongdoing over claims Donald Trump urged then-FBI director James Comey to drop a probe, markets are worried it could throw the president's agenda off-track AFP/SAUL LOEB

FBI given deadline to turn over Trump-Comey communications

 

WASHINGTON: House oversight committee chairman and Republican Jason Chaffetz has set a deadline of May 24 for the FBI to produce all communications between President Donald Trump and former FBI director James Comey.

In a letter to acting FBI driector Andrew McCbe, Chaffetz said “all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the President” must be submitted.

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan backed Chaffetz.

“We need to have all the facts, and it is appropriate for the House Oversight Committee to request this memo,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong.

 

Legal experts took a dim view of Trump’s comments, as quoted in the memo.

“For the president to tell the FBI to end a potential criminal investigation, that’s obstruction of justice,” said Erwin Chereminsky, a constitutional law professor and dean of University of California, Irvine School of Law. “This is what caused President Nixon to resign from office.”

But the experts said intent was a critical element of an obstruction of justice charge, and the president’s words could be subject to interpretation and possibly put into the context of other actions, like Comey’s termination.

The fact that the president apparently said he “hoped” Comey would end the Flynn investigation rather than more directly ordering it “makes for a weaker but still viable case,” said Christopher Slobogin, a criminal law professor at Vanderbilt University Law School.

Flynn’s resignation came hours after it was reported that the Justice Department had warned the White House weeks earlier that Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail for contacts with Kislyak before Trump took office on Jan 20.

Kislyak was with Lavrov at the White House when Trump disclosed the sensitive information.

A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment on the details of the memo.

An emailed fundraising appeal by Trump’s political organisation and the Republican National Committee sent out after reports of the Comey memo said Trump was being victimized by an “unelected bureaucracy.”

“You already knew the media was out to get us,” it said. “But sadly it’s not just the fake news… There are people within our own unelected bureaucracy that want to sabotage President Trump and our entire ‘America First’ movement.”

The new development came as Republican and Democratic lawmakers pressured Trump to give a fuller explanation for why he revealed sensitive intelligence information to Lavrov.

The information had been supplied by a US ally in the fight against the Islamic State militant group, the officials said.

A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Comey wrote a memo after the Feb 14 meeting with the president that said Trump had asked him to shut down the FBI investigation into Flynn.

The person had seen the memo, which was first reported by the New York Times, but was not authorised to discuss it by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The White House denied the reports.

 

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