President Donald Trump on Thursday categorically denied pressuring former FBI director James Comey to end the FBI's investigation into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
According to the Times, both the Trump transition team and the Justice Department became concerned with Flynn's possible ties to the Turkish government after he published an anti-Gulen op-ed in November 2016.
"The documentation of Mr. Trump's request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump's associates and Russian Federation", the newspaper said.
Trump lashed out in the morning on Twitter at the news that the Justice Department appointed a special prosecutor, former FBI director Robert Mueller, to oversee the investigation, calling the move a politically motivated "witch hunt" by his Democratic rivals. Comey declined to do so.
Flynn made the disclosure to White House counsel Don McGahn during a conversation, The Times said.
"No. No. Next question", Trump interrupted tersely.
Trump said in a written statement that he looks forward to "this matter concluding quickly".
He said: "Of course not, I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these freaky rumours that have swirled around the candidacy".
Mr Trump on Thursday piled onto his mounting reasons for firing Mr Comey, mentioning his "very poor performance" at a recent Senate hearing, and the FBI's declining reputation.
The investigation into his campaign's possible collusion with Russian officials, Trump said, was the last thing he wanted to focus his attention on. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said Rosenstein would be questioned about a letter he wrote accusing Comey of missteps as Federal Bureau of Investigation director, including his handling of an election-year probe into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. "I think it divides the country, I think we have a very divided country because of that many other things". "I hope you can let this go". Flynn is under investigation for his contacts with Russian Federation as well as his work on behalf of Turkey's government while he was a prominent campaign supporter of Trump. The Mueller appointment will, at least temporarily, relieve some of the pressure on congressional Republicans who've publicly complained that the constant drama and serial controversies at the White House were hindering their ability to work on their policy agenda.
The FBI's reputation, he said, had been damaged during the presidential campaign, given "what happened with respect to the Clinton campaign".
Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina said a lawyer for Flynn, a key figure in the Trump-Russia investigations, had told the intelligence committee that Flynn would not comply with the panel's subpoena for personal documents related to the committee's own probe. And if they want to get re-elected, they've got to worry about delivering for their constituents.