Former FBI Director James Comey said on Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump asked him to drop an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn as part of a probe into Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
In written testimony released the day before he appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey said Trump told him at a meeting in the White House in February: "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go."
The testimony puts more pressure on Trump, a Republican, whose presidency has been overshadowed by allegations that Moscow helped him win last year's election.
|U.S. President Donald Trump,former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James Comey.
Some legal experts said Comey’s testimony could strengthen any impeachment case built on obstruction of justice, but U.S. markets shrugged off the news from the testimony for lack of any major disclosures.
To build a criminal obstruction of justice case, federal law requires prosecutors to show that a person acted with "corrupt" intent. It does not matter whether the person succeeds in impeding an investigation.
While a sitting president is very unlikely to face criminal prosecution, obstruction of justice could form the basis for impeachment.
Comey said he had told Trump on three occasions he was not being investigated, confirming an earlier account from the president.
Trump, who spent part of Wednesday in Ohio talking about the need to fix the nation's crumbling infrastructure, ignored reporters’ shouted questions about Comey. On returning to the Oval Office, Trump went into a meeting with top advisers, including chief of staff Reince Priebus.
Later, his outside counsel released a statement saying Trump felt "completely and totally vindicated" by Comey's account.
"The president is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the president was not under investigation in any Russian probe," Marc Kasowitz, Trump's attorney, said in a statement.