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The New York Times has reported exclusively that US President Donald Trump sacked the former FBI director James Comey after he refused to drop an investigation into the Russia ties of his sacked national security advisor Michael Flynn.
The report published on Tuesday, if proven, may serve as an impeachable ground against the Republican president, who keeps hopping from one controversy to the other.
The explosive report that was characteristically denied by the Trump administration, the Times said Comey met the president in the White House on February 14, later summing up their discussion of Flynn in a memo.
The Times said the memo, read to the paper by one of the ousted FBI chief’s associates, depicts the president urging Comey to close down an investigation into Flynn’s Russian connections.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” the memo quotes Trump as saying, according to the newspaper.
“He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Trump allegedly said.
Flynn, a former military intelligence chief, had been forced out of his White House job the day before Trump’s meeting with Comey over concerns about his contacts with Russian officials.
It later emerged that Flynn was suspected by the Justice Department as having become vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
Trump’s shock dismissal of the FBI chief last week triggered accusations that the president was trying to obstruct the FBI’s probe into whether his campaign colluded with Russia to tilt the November election his way.
The Times said Comey’s memo was part of a “paper trail” that he kept to document allegedly “improper” pressure by Trump over the FBI’s Russia investigation.
A senior administration official denied that Trump pressed Comey to drop the Flynn probe.
“The president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the official said.
“The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”