Paul Ryan says ‘we need the facts’ on explosive Comey memo that accuses Trump of trying to shut down investigation
The most powerful Republican on Capitol Hill has called for further investigation into shocking allegations against President Donald Trump, as scandals continue to mount around the White House.
“We need the facts,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan declared at a press conference. “It is obvious 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.”
The Republican majority leader spoke amid reports that Mr Trump had asked his then-FBI director, James Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. The president fired Mr Comey not three months later.
“We’re going to want to hear from Mr Comey,” Mr Ryan said on Wednesday.
Trump ‘asked James Comey to shut down Michael Flynn investigation’
According to memos reportedly written by Mr Comey, and obtained by the New York Times, Mr Trump asked the FBI director in a private meeting to “let [the Flynn investigation] go”. Mr Flynn had been ousted from his White House role the day before for misrepresenting his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
The FBI is now investigating possible ties between Russia and Mr Flynn – and the Trump campaign as a whole.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump allegedly told Mr. Comey. “He is a good guy.”
The reports sent shock waves through Washington, leading some to suggest Mr Trump had committed obstruction of justice – a federal crime, and possibly an impeachable offence.
But Mr Ryan on Wednesday urged caution, telling reporters that Congress needed “all the pertinent information” before ” rushing to judgement”.
“Our job is to be responsible, sober, and focus only on gathering the facts,” Mr Ryan said.
He noted that the House Oversight Committee had demanded the memo, a move he called “appropriate”.
The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, tweeted on Tuesday: ” I have my subpoena pen ready.”
.@GOPoversight is going to get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.
— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse)
Democrats, meanwhile, pushed for a special prosecutor in the Russia investigation – something they have wanted ever since Mr Trump fired his FBI director last Tuesday. Congress members warned the surprising dismissal had marred the independence of the FBI investigation.
These calls only escalated after the Washington Post reported that Mr Trump had revealed highly classified intelligence to Russian officials in a White House meeting.
The White House would not confirm whether Mr Trump had revealed the information in question, but said he “did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known”.
“At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed,” National Security Adviser HR McMaster said at a press conference.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday that he was “ready” to submit a transcript of the meeting to the US Senate and Congress.
BREAKING: Putin says “political schizophrenia” has gripped US; Russia ready to provide transcript of Trump-Lavrov meeting to Congress.
— Lucian Kim (@Lucian_Kim)
Many Republicans hesitated to denounce Mr Trump following the Washington Post report, claiming they needed more information. The revelation of the Mr Comey’s memo, however, has sent some over the edge.
“If recent allegations are true, they mark the beginning of a new and very sad chapter of scandal and controversy in our country,” said Representative Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida.
Senator John McCain said the White House’s involvement in the Russia investigation is reaching “Watergate size and scale”.
At least seven Republicans in Congress have called on Mr Comey to testify.
The White House has denied the New York Times account of the meeting, saying Mr Trump “has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn”.