Senate Intelligence Committee asks for all memos of Trump interactions with Comey

They have also asked the former FBI Director to appear in both open and closed hearings

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Wednesday 17 May 2017 18:28 BST
Former FBI Director James Comey has been asked to testify in both closed and public sessions
Former FBI Director James Comey has been asked to testify in both closed and public sessions (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Senate Intelligence Committee has formally asked former FBI Director James Comey to turn over any and all memos pertaining to his conversations with Donald Trump.

Chairman Senator Richard Burr and Vice-Chairman Senator Mark Warner have also asked that Mr Comey appears before them in both open and closed sessions.

The have also requested Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe any notes or memos prepared by Mr Comey "regarding any communications he may have had with any senior White House or Department of Justice officials."

According to the New York Times, Mr Comey had a habit of drafting these memos after any conversations with the president. Since his departure, the documents are now the property of the federal government, not Mr Comey's personal communications.

Mr Comey had responded to the committee's initial request to hold a closed session after his 9 May firing by saying he would testify but would prefer to do so publicly.

Normally, senior government officials at Mr Comey's level are given an opportunity to resign from their high-level posts as a sign of respect for their decades of public service. Mr Trump minced no words in his final letter to Mr Comey, however, saying that the FBI Director had eroded public trust and was no longer effective in his position.

The purpose of a closed session is likely so Mr Comey may share classified information regarding the ongoing investigation into alleged ties between Russia and Mr Trump's campaign team as well as Russia's possible interference into the 2016 US election.

The New York Times reported that Mr Trump had, during one of their conversations, asked Mr Comey to "let it go" when it came to the investigation into alleged ties between Russia and former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn.

The House is running a parallel investigation and has made a similar request for Mr Comey's memos. It is important to note that the Flynn investigation is a separate matter from the investigation into Mr Trump's campaign team, though both involve alleged ties to Russian officials.

There is no word yet whether Mr McCabe will also be asked to appear before the committee to discuss the investigation.

Mr Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Ambassador to Russia Sergei Kislyak, at the White House, just one day after he fired Mr Comey. The Washington Post later reported that Mr Trump divulged "highly classified" information from a US ally to the Russian officials.

The report, which cited a confidential source within the administration, set off a firestorm.

“This is code-word information,” one US official told the newspaper, a reference to one of the highest classification levels used by the American intelligence agencies, adding that Mr Trump had revealed more to Russia than the US does to some allies.

National Security Advisor HR McMaster said that “at no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”

Mr McMaster said he was in the room and "it didn't happen."

However, the Washington Post report did not include any information about "sources and methods," causing some to speculate why Mr McMaster would deny something that was not reported.

Later, he said that the conversation was "wholly appropriate" and that what was shared could have been learned from open sources.

What worried many in Washington was that Mr Trump "wasn't even aware of where this information came from" at the time of the meeting with Russian officials. He had not been briefed on it according to the national security advisor.

In fact, Mr McMaster said the president made the decision to share the information "in the context of the conversation." In other words, Mr Trump decided spontaneously to share the sensitive information.

Russian President Vladimir Putin then responded, saying that no classified information had been shared with his officials. This begs the question, how would they know if a piece of information was classified or not and would they admit it if they learned classified information.

Congressman Al Green became the first person to call for Mr Trump's impeachment on the House floor. Maxine Waters, the representative from California, has been saying there were grounds for possible impeachment in the media for months but never took to the floor for a formal statement.

Republican Chair of the House Oversight Committee Jason Chaffetz said the House needs to see the memos Mr Comey wrote in order to determine if Mr Trump did in fact obstruct justice by calling for the end of the Flynn investigation. House Speaker Paul Ryan supported the request, however neither have asked for a hearing with Mr Comey or McCabe as yet.

Another New York Times report revealed that the US ally from whom the information Mr Trump shared originated was Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not responded to the report but depending on the information shared, it could put lives of US and ally intelligence officers in the Middle East at risk according to some experts.

Mr Trump also had a call with regional ally Jordan the day after the report.

Thus far, the White House and Mr Trump's Twitter account have continued to take the stance that Mr Trump did not share any classified information.

He is scheduled for his foreign visit as president on 18 May, travelling to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican including stops in Italy for the group of seven meeting.

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