Trump faces escalating crisis after Congress demands Comey memo
Ex- FBI chief ’s note claims president sought to halt Russia probe Turmoil hits markets
Donald Trump’s administration faced mounting demands from Congress to hand over key evidence of claims that he sought to halt investigations into alleged links between his election campaign and Russia as the crisis facing his presidency escalated yesterday.
The Senate intelligence committee and House oversight committee separately asked the FBI to produce a memo by James Comey which the ousted agency head wrote following a private meeting with Mr Trump.
The Senate justice committee asked the White House to produce any information, including audio recordings, related to communications between Mr Comey and the president. After Mr Trump fired Mr Comey, he tweeted: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
The suggestion that Mr Trump may have obstructed justice by putting pressure on the FBI has triggered the most serious threat to his presidency.
Stock markets slid in response as investors piled into haven assets. The benchmark S&P 500 was at one point poised for its biggest daily loss since the election, before rebounding off its lows to trade 1.1 per cent lower. The dollar was hit with fresh selling pressures and fell to its lowest level since Mr Trump won the vote in November last year.
By contrast, gold and the 10-year US Treasury rallied.
Mr Trump hit back in a speech to US Coast Guard cadets. “Look at the way I have been treated lately, especially by the media,” he complained. “No politician in history has been treated worse or more unfairly.”
As part of a broad investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election, the FBI is examining connections between Trump campaign aides, including Michael Flynn, former national security adviser, and Russian officials. According to a memo written by Mr Comey, Mr Trump asked him to stop investigating Mr Flynn, who was fired the previous day.
Mr Trump fired Mr Comey last week, saying his decision was based partly on his view that the “Russia thing” was a politically-motivated investigation.
Democrats have pounced on the memo as evidence of the need for an independent investigation, while some Republicans have felt compelled to take a tougher stance on the White House.
John McCain, the Arizona senator, said the scandals engulfing Mr Trump were nearing “Watergate size and scale”, in a reference to the issue that toppled Richard Nixon. Jason Chaffetz, Republican chairman of the House oversight committee, suggested he would force the FBI to hand over any documents. “I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready,” he said.
July 5 2016 James Comey, FBI chief, recommends the justice department does not bring charges against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, over her use of a private email server.
Oct 28 The FBI announces that it is opening a probe into Mrs Clinton’s emails, following an unrelated probe into Anthony Weiner, a former congressman and estranged husband of a Clinton aide, Huma Abedin.
Nov 6 Mr Comey reaffirms his previous decision that no charges be brought against Mrs Clinton.
Dec 11 President Donald Trump attacks a CIA report that Russia hacked Democratic party servers to help secure his election win.
Feb 14 2017 Michael Flynn resigns as national security adviser after admitting he misled Mike Pence, vice-president, over his Russian contacts.
Feb 17 Mr Trump criticises reports that his campaign team was in contact with Russia during the campaign.
May 3 Mr Comey says he feels “mildly nauseous” at the thought he could have influenced the outcome of the election.
May 9 Mr Comey is fired. A letter from the president says he was dismissed on the advice of the justice department over his handling of the Clinton case.
May 11 Mr Trump says he would have fired Mr Comey “regardless” of the justice department’s advice.
May 13 Mr Trump appears to threaten Mr Comey with release of tapes of their private conversations.
May 15 The Washington Post reports that Mr Trump shared classified information with Russia’s foreign minister in a White House meeting.
May 16 Mr Trump tweets that he has an “absolute right” to give Russians information for counterterrorism purposes. The New York Times reports that Mr Trump asked Mr Comey in February to halt the investigation into Mr Flynn. “I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr Comey.
The FBI is examining connections between several Trump campaign aides and Russian officials