In light of the New York Times story alleging President Donald Trump told FBI Director James Comey to stop the bureau's investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, testimony from a May 3 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is getting attention.
According to Comey, who testified under oath, he was never pressured by Department of Justice officials to stop the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election. Transcript from WAPO, bolding is mine:
[SENATOR] HIRONO: Yes. And so speaking of the independence of not just the judiciary but I’d like you to clarify the FBI’s independence from the DOJ apparatus. Can the FBI conduct an investigation independent from the department of Justice. Or does the FBI have to disclose all it’s investigations to the DOJ? And does it have to get the Attorney General’s consent?
COMEY: Well we work with the Department of Justice, whether that’s main justice or U.S. attorney’s offices on all of our investigations.
And so we work with them and so in a legal sense we’re not independent of the department of justice. We are spiritually, culturally pretty independent group and that’s the way you would want tit. But yes, we work with the Department of Justice on all of our investigations.
HIRONO: So if the Attorney General or senior officials at the Department of Justice opposes a specific investigation, can they halt that FBI investigation?
COMEY: In theory yes.
HIRONO: Has it happened?
COMEY: Not in my experience. Because it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something that — without an appropriate purpose. I mean where oftentimes they give us opinions that we don’t see a case there and so you ought to stop investing resources in it. But I’m talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason, that would be a very big deal. It’s not happened in my experience.
Now, this doesn't disprove that President Trump asked Comey to drop the Flynn investigation during a private meeting at the White House earlier this year, but it does show that nobody inside Trump's DOJ was asking him to do so. The Times story alleges Comey has a memo with notes about the President asking him to stop the inquiry.
President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.
“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.
In March Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, leaving Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge. Rosenstein has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel on the case.
Last week during testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said there has been no interference in the FBI's Russia investigation since Comey was fired.