Members of Congress are calling for a full disclosure of any memos or documentation between former FBI Director James Comey and President Trump after a stunning New York Times report Tuesday said the President met with Comey in February and requested he end the investigation into Mr. Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn's connections to Russia.
President Trump abruptly fired Comey fired three months later on May 9th, saying it was due Comey's inability to do his job, but later stated in a television interview that he was bothered by "this Russia thing".
The Times report Tuesday cited an anonymous source who said that Comey had kept a paper trail and wrote a memo following his February 14th meeting with the president, saying that President Trump asked Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to leave the room before speaking privately with Comey about Flynn and told Comey "I hope you will let it go."
The Times did not obtain a copy of the memo but rather, said an anonymous source read it to reporters over the phone.
Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz who serves as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform immediately sent a letter Tuesday to the FBI's acting director Andrew McCabe demanding that the FBI "provide, no later than May 24, 2017, all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the President."
The White House responded with a statement, "While the President has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the President has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn."
"The country is being tested in unprecedented ways," said Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York.
exists...It points to obstruction of justice by the president.
"In trying to persuade that same director to back off of a specific investigation of a specific individual -- that is obstruction of justice -- and that is a very serious matter." said Democratic Congressman Gerry Connoly of Virginia.
"We are witnessing an obstruction of justice case unfolding in real time," Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Judiciary Committee member and former federal prosecutor, said in a statement. He called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate.
Some Republicans also called for action, asking Comey to speak to Congress and demanding that any memos or recordings of his conversations with the president be presented to them.
"Obviously I want to see the memo. I want to talk to Director Comey to determine how contemporaneous his recalling of the conversation was," said Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.
Soon after the firing, a Comey associate told the AP that Comey recounted being asked by Trump at a January dinner if he would pledge his loyalty. The White House has denied that report.
The associate also confirmed an account from the Times that Trump vented about media leaks during his conversation with Comey, and that the president expressed support for seeing reporters in prison.
"On a day when we thought things couldn't get any worse they have," said Senator Schumer.
The report on the Comey memo comes the same day as President Trump and White House staff sought to dispel concerns about the president's disclosure last week of highly classified intelligence in his May 10th meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.
Eric Schickler, chair of the UC Berkeley political science department says it is a test for the Republican party.
"The thing to watch for is do they start to turn on the president?" said Schickler.
Schickler says while it's unclear whether President Trump made comments that legally fit the definition of obstruction of justice, it is a political test for Congress and the public.
"When the framers were thinking about high crimes and misdemeanors, it really was less about a legal technicality than it was about the idea of wanting to make sure the President doesn't take actions that threaten the basic consitutional system of government," said Schickler.
"Is this really something where you're threatening the viability of separation of powers and our political institutions? Or is it something less serious? And that's really the judgement that they're going to have to make," said Schickler.
The FBI and Justice Department declined to comment Tuesday on accounts of the memo, which was first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by the Associated Press.
The associate who described the memo said Comey is willing to testify but wants to do it in public to ensure a full airing of events. Comey created several memos of encounters with Trump to ensure that a record would exist of conversations he found odd or troubling, according to the person.