Attorney General Coffman, Democratic challengers sound alarm over Comey memo

Author: Ernest Luning - May 17, 2017 - Updated: May 17, 2017

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman talks about her accomplishments during an interview on Feb. 24, 2017, at her office in Denver. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman talks about her accomplishments during an interview on Feb. 24, 2017, at her office in Denver. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman on Wednesday called for an independent investigation into allegations that President Donald Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to shut down a federal probe into Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor, according to accounts of a memo Comey wrote after a meeting with the president.

Coffman, a Republican who cheered Trump’s election, told The Colorado Statesman that the conversation described in the memo raises “serious concerns.”

“The initial reports regarding a memo by former FBI Director Comey detailing his conversation with the President about the Michael Flynn investigation raise serious concerns requiring further examination by an independent third party,” Coffman said in a statement. (The attorney general is attending an international conference in Europe this week, her spokeswoman said.)

Coming almost exactly a week after Trump abruptly fired Comey, news of the memo and its contents, which was first reported by The New York Times on Tuesday, has renewed calls by Democrats and some Republicans for an independent investigation into links between Trump’s associates and Russia. The conversation recounted in Comey’s memo took place the day after Flynn, a key Trump campaign advisor, resigned as national security advisor in the face of allegations he’d misled members of the administration about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Trump’s fiercest critics maintain that the conversation with Comey could amount to obstruction of justice, although Republican lawmakers have generally spoken more cautiously.

U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who chairs the House Oversight Committee, for instance, asked the FBI to turn over all documents regarding discussions between Trump and Comey, saying they would “raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede” the FBI, according to The New York Times.

Coffman’s husband, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, an Aurora Republican, said in a tweet Tuesday night that he wanted to hear from Comey and read his memos — he reportedly wrote memos after every meeting and phone conversation with Trump — and reiterated his call for a special prosecutor.

“We need the memos, Comey should testify and I still believe that a special prosecutor should be named,” Coffman’s tweet said.

The two Democrats running for attorney general in next year’s election — state Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, and former CU law school dean Phil Weiser — condemned the allegations against Trump in strong terms.

“It comes as no surprise that Trump asked former FBI director James Comey to end the investigation into Michael Flynn,” Salazar told The Statesman. “Obviously, he attempts to avoid the law and he flees from having his conduct scrutinized by the public. Only dictators believe they are above the law.”

“I anticipate that as this story unfolds, renewed calls for his impeachment will grow,” Salazar added. “States’ attorneys general should be prepared to defend their residents from the lawlessness of this president. To remain silent is a sign of cowardice and an utter lack of leadership.”

Weiser called news of the Comey memo and its contents “deeply depressing” and said it “underscores that President Trump does not respect the rule of law and that our law enforcement at the federal level is suspect.”

“The firing of Jim Comey goes against the basic norms of how the justice system is supposed to operate, which means you treat people based on the rule of law, not on who they are,” Weiser continued. “When (U.S. Attorney General) Jeff Sessions says he’s going to recuse himself from an investigation, he doesn’t fire the person conducting it and the president doesn’t ask the person conducting the investigation to lay of the target of the investigation. We as Americans need to hold fast to our traditions and institutions to remain a society that is ruled by law, not by individual caprice.”

“We are being tested as a society right now and we need leaders to stand up and to reaffirm our traditions and our commitment to the rule of law and remaining silent in the face of injustice goes against the American way,” Weiser said.

CORRECTION: Attorney General Coffman is attending an international conference this week, not an international law enforcement conference, as this story originally said.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.

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