Mueller Approved By Justice Dept. Ethics Team, Despite Former Law Firm's Ties

Trump asked Coats in March to say publicly that he saw no evidence the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 election, a former senior intelligence official told NBC News.

Both Coats and Rogers were uncomfortable with the nature of the President's request and refused to comply, the sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN.

After it was revealed the Justice Department has named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to head an investigation into alleged contact between Russian officials and President Donald Trump's associates, some in the media and politics expressed concern.

The president made the request after then Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey revealed that the agency had been investigating Russian interference into the election since July 2016. The White House later said the report was "not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Comey" and that President Trump never asked his former FBI director to end any investigations involving him. But Coats said if he is called to testify by congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, "I certainly will provide them with what I know and what I don't know".

The NSA and a spokesman for Coats declined to comment to the Post, citing the current investigation.

Reports say that the White House has however denied the allegation.

With turmoil enveloping his administration at home, President Donald Trump heads overseas on Friday for a trip the White House hopes will shift focus away from domestic controversies and on to his foreign policy agenda.

For nearly a year, Donald Trump has been complaining that FBI Director James Comey gave Hillary Clinton "a free pass for many bad deeds", as the president recently put it on Twitter.

He may have also made incriminating statements to the Russian duo regarding Comey's firing, details of which will come to light when the former director testifies in open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The ostensible explanation was Comey's improper public comments about the Hillary Clinton email investigation, as laid out in a memorandum from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Both believed the requests to be highly improper and did not cooperate, according to intelligence.

Lawyers Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, who advised then-Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama on ethics issues, respectively, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last week that preventing Mueller's appointment based on his prior law firm's clients wouldn't hold up.

While relations between Trump and Comey were strained by the Russian Federation probe, ties between the president and the other intelligence chiefs, including Rogers, Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, appear to be less contentious, according to officials. "Any political shaping of that intelligence would not be appropriate", he said. The Russian President asked that they meet when he spoke with Trump earlier this month.

Schiff's comments echoed the testimony of former CIA Director John Brennan, who told the committee on Tuesday why he sounded the alarm about contacts he discovered between people working for the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

The Trump-Russia case could become the ultimate illustration of the old Washington saying that it's not the crime, it's the cover-up. This is exactly the same kind of FBI investigation interference that forced Nixon out of the White House and shocked his Republican allies out of defending him.

Some Democrats have suggested that Trump's actions amount to obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense.

  • Zachary Reyes