Amid controversy, President Trump addresses US Coast Guard graduates

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NEW LONDON, Connecticut — President Donald Trump heralded graduates of the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, Wednesday, amid swirling controversy in Washington over his presidency.

“You have done amazing work and in the true Coast Guard fashion, you had fewer people and fewer resources, but you accomplished the objective and you did it with skill and with pride. And I would like to say, under budget and ahead of schedule. … We are doing a lot of that,” President Trump said.

President Trump’s White House is besieged by bipartisan questions about his alleged request to former FBI Director James Comey to halt an investigation into his former top national security aide.

The administration looks to suspend the controversy — even briefly — as President Trump, joined by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and the commandant of the Coast Guard will graduate nearly 200 soon-to-be ensigns into 226-year-old military service tasked with protecting the nation’s borders and maritime installments.

“You could have gone to school anywhere ou wanted and with very, very few responsibilities by comparison. Instead you choose the path of service. You chose hard work, high standards and a very noble mission to save lives, defend the homeland and protect America’s interests around the world,” President Trump told the graduates. “You chose the Coast Guard. Good choice, good choice.”

The speech comes at a perilous time for President Trump. Sources told CNN on Tuesday that President Trump, during a February meeting with Comey, asked the FBI director to end the investigation into Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser whose ties to Russia are currently being investigated by the bureau.

“I hope you can let this go,” Comey wrote in a memo, quoting President Trump. CNN has not viewed the document, but the reported memo has caused shockwaves to ripple across Washington, raising the question of impeachment with Democrats and leading some Republicans to consider a special prosecutor to investigate the President Trump campaign’s ties to Russia’s 2016 hacking.

President Trump has so far avoided talking about the controversy. The President ignored shouted questions about the Comey memo as he left the White House to head to Connecticut.

Hundreds of supporters gathered outside the US Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday to welcome President Trump to the seaside town. Sporting signs, including “Hillary for Prison,” a reference to President Trump’s 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton, the Trump supporters were joined outside the academy by dozens of protesters who sported signs urging President Trump to step down.