President Trump told ousted FBI Director James Comey to consider jailing journalists who publish classified information at the same meeting where he implored him to drop the bureau’s investigation into General Mike Flynn, it has been claimed.
Both claims were made by an ‘associate’ of the ousted FBI chief who read aloud the memo’s contents to The New York Times on Tuesday.
According to their recital of the memo, Trump told Comey to ‘let go’ his probe into General Mike Flynn and his ties to Russian officials, calling the disgraced chief a ‘good guy’.
Elsewhere in the conversation, he is said to have implored Comey to imprison reporters for publishing leaked classified information.
The White House vehemently denied the associate’s claim that the president tried to block the Russian investigation but it has not responded to the accusation regarding jailing journalists.
President Trump told ousted FBI director James Comey to consider jailing journalists who published classified information at a February meeting, according to notes taken by Comey afterwards
According to the associate, Comey noted that Trump said to him of the Flynn investigation: ‘I hope you can let this go. He’s a good guy’.
No American journalist has ever been prosecuted for publishing government secrets despite growing discussion on the issue in recent years.
In April, President Trump said he would be comfortable with the Justice Department bringing charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, telling reporters: ‘It’s OK with me’.
Assange, who is facing sexual assault charges in Sweden, has not charged with criminal offences in the US. Last month, sources claimed the Justice Department was close to bringing a case against him but it has not yet issued any warrant for his arrest.
In March, Comey touched on the issue of journalists facing criminal prosecution for sharing classified information during questioning at his House Intelligence Committee Hearing in March.
‘That’s a harder question, as to whether a reporter incurs criminal liability by disclosing classified information,’ he replied when asked if there was a law which protected journalists from being prosecuted.
On Tuesday, President Trump defended sharing classified information himself with Russian officials by saying his office entitled him to do so.
‘As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,’ he said in a string of tweets.
Trump is said to have made the suggestion at the same meeting where Comey claimed he implored him to drop an investigation into General Mike Flynn over his ties to Russia
He had already been lampooned by critics for giving away the information, which came from a US ally, to Russia when the country’s relationship with Vladimir Putin remains so tenuous.
Trump previously said he would be ‘OK’ with charges being brought against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
In the same string of tweets, he said he was committed to finding those who had been leaking information from within the White House.
‘I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community.’
President Trump fired Comey unceremoniously on May 9.
Trump has made no effort to hide his disdain for the ‘fake news media’ in the past but has not pursued or discussed jailing reporters for sharing classified information.
His administration has maintained the combative approach he took towards journalists during the election campaign and regularly calls for journalists to be held accountable for reports it considers inaccurate.
In one of his very first briefings, Press Secretary Sean Spicer made a point of singling out a pool reporter for incorrectly tweeting that the president had removed a bust of Martin Luther King from the Oval Office.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump defended sharing classified information with Russian officials
Despite the numerous apologies and immediate correction of the mistake, he said the error was indicative of the media’s disregard for fact.
No journalist in recent US history has been prosecuted for publishing information that the government deems secret.
The rising of WikiLeaks and journalists who republish its contents has however thrown the subject under discussion.
While several sources have been charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 for stealing classified government information and supplying it to the website, no mainstream media journalists have been formally reprimanded for reproducing it.
In 2013, the Justice Department sparked outrage among the global media by seizing the phone records of Associated Press journalists without warning.
Later, Attorney General Eric Holder said the move was prompted by a 2012 report on a foiled Al Qaeda plot in Yemen to blow up an airliner.
Holder said the AP’s coverage of how the US prevented the atrocity ‘put the American people at risk’.