President Donald Trump told then-FBI Director James Comey he should throw journalists in jail during the same meeting in which he asked Comey to end the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a source close to Comey has told CNN.
In the February 14 meeting in the Oval Office, Trump expressed frustration about news stories detailing his private conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia the previous month, saying Comey needed to go after the leakers, the source said.
When Comey tried to explain to the President that leak investigations are difficult to pursue because law enforcement officers often end up having to threaten to jail journalists, Trump said he should throw the journalists in jail, the source said.
The White House has declined to comment on the President’s remarks to Comey.
The FBI director, whom Trump fired two weeks ago, wrote a memo about the conversation, which included the President’s suggestion that Comey should back off the investigation into Flynn, a source familiar with the matter told CNN. Comey, who plans to testify at a Senate intelligence committee hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 US elections in the coming weeks, shared those contemporaneous notes with a circle of friends and aides, the source said.
The existence of the memo was first reported by The New York Times. The President denied last week that he ever made such a suggestion to Comey.
When asked at a joint news conference with Colombian President Juan Manual Santos on Thursday whether he had urged Comey to slow or stop an FBI investigation into Flynn, Trump responded: “No. No. Next question.”
It was Trump’s first time taking questions since his Justice Department named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to probe Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.
“Well, I respect the move but the entire thing has been a witch hunt,” Trump said when asked about the investigation. “There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign. But I can always speak for myself and the Russians, zero. I think it divides the country, I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things. So I can tell you that we want to bring this great country of ours together.”
Flynn was asked to resign in February after it became public that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about phone calls with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak, in which he discussed US sanctions.