The Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said he’ll talk to deposed FBI Director James Comey on Monday and is pursuing any records of President Donald Trump’s meetings with the fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director.
The conversation between Representative Jason Chaffetz and Comey would be the first between the pair since Trump dismissed Comey on May 9, he said. Chaffetz, a Utah congressman since 2009, said last week that he’ll leave office on June 30.
The New York Times reported on May 19 that Trump had called Comey “a nut job” during a White House meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, adding that the firing relieved “great pressure” on the president. The Times cited a leaked document summarizing that meeting.
The ex-director will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee some time after May 29, the U.S. Memorial Day holiday, committee leaders have said. Chaffetz disclosed his plans to talk with Comey during an interview on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday.
Asked for his reaction to the report about Trump’s comments to the Russian officials, Chaffetz said he doesn’t know what was said but added, “I hope that’s not true.”
Chaffetz said he would like to think that Trump would beat the Russians “over the head” about allegations they interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, also on ABC, repeatedly declined to say if confronting Russia over election hacking was part of the conversation with the Russian delegation.
“The gist of the conversation was that the president feels as if he is hamstrung in his ability to work with Russia to find areas of cooperation because this has been obviously so much in the news,” McMaster said.
Trump’s firing of the director in the midst of the FBI’s investigation into suspected Russian tampering with the election, possible collusion with the president’s campaign and related matters, touched off a firestorm of criticism from both sides of the aisle.
Representative Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, said he hoped Chaffetz would issue subpoenas compelling the White House to release all documentation of Trump’s meeting with the two Russian officials.
“I think documents will help us to ferret out exactly what’s the truth and what’s a lie,” Cummings said.
‘Let This Go’
Chaffetz said he is also chasing documents from Comey who -- following a February meeting with the president -- wrote a file memorandum that may be interpreted as an entreaty from Trump to drop the Russia probe after the firing of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
“I hope you can let this go,” Trump told Comey according to the memo, first reported by the New York Times.
“It’s important to remember nobody’s actually seen these documents,” Chaffetz said on Sunday. “There’s been an awful lot written and said about it, but I don’t even know that the Department of Justice has them. Maybe Director Comey has them. I don’t know where they reside. I don’t know if there are documents. But we’re certainly pursuing them.”
Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and member of the Senate Intelligence committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he also has asked the White House to produce any notes from the meeting with the Russians and wants to see any memos that Comey wrote.
‘Stop the Tweeting’
Rubio said he wouldn’t use the term “witch hunt” to characterize the investigation as Trump has. “These issues are being raised in the press,” Rubio said. “These questions need to be answered.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said separately that Comey is “in no way, shape or form a ‘nut job,”’ and that while he made mistakes, “the reason for the termination has really not been ferreted out.”
“And that’s what has to be before the American people clear and distinct,” Feinstein said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Feinstein also had advice for the president, who posts sometimes inflammatory comments on Twitter to his 30 million followers: “Stop the tweeting. Think about what you say. Because you’re reflecting in a big pool.”
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