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The president asserted that Comey told him three times that he was not personally under investigation, while the former director's associates allege Trump asked Comey if he could back off an investigation into Michael Flynn, who was sacked as national security adviser because he misled the White House about his ties to Russian Federation.

Comey did not disclose to Sessions that Mr. Trump had requested that he end the investigation into Flynn, the Times reported, and Comey didn't tell a single official at the Justice Department about his conversation with Trump, sharing the conversation only with his closest advisers.

While saying nothing privately, Mr. Comey and his confidants have effectively counterpunched with a string of leaks to the press, including one to The New York Times of a private memo he reportedly wrote after an Oval Office meeting with Mr. Trump in February.

That was less than a week after Coats' confirmation, and two days after then-FBI director James Comey confirmed to Congress that the bureau was investigating whether Trump's team had met with Russian Federation.

The message of the ad reflects a strategy by Trump and his advocates to erode Comey's credibility.

Comey is expected to testify before the Senate intelligence committee on Thursday about his encounters with Trump in the weeks before his May 9 firing, and his conversation with Sessions could come up at the hearing.

A spokesman for Pompeo declined to comment to the Washington Post, while the White House referred the query to outside lawyers, who have not responded.

"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go", Trump told Comey, according to the memo Comey wrote describing that meeting.

In this Wednesday, May 3, 2017 photo, then-FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

With Mr. Comey keeping his own counsel and owing little loyalty to the man who abruptly dismissed him last month, there is genuine suspense about how far he will go in characterizing the pressure he felt from Mr. Trump and his aides.

"I've had a lot of words about the Federal Bureau of Investigation lately, but I give them great credit for having the courage to right this awful wrong", he added.

"I expect us to ask him questions to be sure that we get all of the answers we need, not just the answers he wants to give", he said. But Trump has repeatedly interjected himself in law enforcement matters, and never more dramatically than in his private meetings with Comey.

Comey and special prosecutor Robert Mueller met to discuss how much Comey could say to avoid tainting the probe Mueller now leads.

"There's no doubt that keeping members focused on investigations detracts from our legislative agenda and detracts from what we're trying to deliver to the American people", White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told reporters on Monday.

Despite the mounting legal questions now shadowing the White House, Trump has needled Comey publicly. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Coats said that if asked, he would provide details of his conversations with Trump to Mueller.



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