May 16, 2017

The Comey memo: Trump asked to end Flynn probe

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

President Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to shut down the federal government's investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn on the day after Flynn's February ouster, per the NY Times.

The source: Comey wrote a memo immediately after the Oval Office meeting, which states that Trump said, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go."

White House response: "While the President has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the President has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation."

Stay tuned: The NYT highlights two key facts: (1) Comey wrote a memo after every interaction with the president, including some that remain classified, so there might be more shoes yet to drop and (2) an FBI agent's notes are widely held up as admissible in court proceedings.

Comey intends to "go public" with the memos from his interactions with Trump, according to NBC's Ken Dilanian.

Why it matters: It's the biggest bombshell yet regarding Trump's flouting of presidential norms — in this case, allegedly attempting to use the power of the presidency to interfere with an ongoing FBI investigation.

Outlets confirming the NYT report: NBC, WaPo, CNN, CBS, ABC, Politico, FT, AP.

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Trump's clemency spree

Rod Blagojevich in 2010. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump announced Tuesday that he commuted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence for extortion, bribery and corruption — as well as issuing full pardons for former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik and financier Michael Milken.

The big picture: The president's clemency spree largely benefitted white-collar criminals convicted of crimes like corruption, gambling fraud and racketeering, undercutting his message of "draining the swamp."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump's improbable moonshot

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NASA is unlikely to meet its deadline of sending astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024, even with a large influx of funding.

Why it matters: The Artemis mission to send people back to the Moon is the Trump administration's flagship space policy, and its aggressive, politically-motivated timeline is its hallmark.

Go deeperArrow3 hours ago - Science

Justice Department says U.S. attorneys are reviewing Ukraine information

Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) Tuesday informing him that the U.S. attorneys for the Eastern District of New York and the Western District of Pennsylvania are reviewing "unsolicited" information from the public related to matters involving Ukraine.

Why it matters: Nadler had requested an explanation for the "intake process" that Attorney General Bill Barr stated had been set up in order to receive information that Rudy Giuliani had obtained about the Bidens in Ukraine.