Trump asked top intelligence officials for help pushing back on collusion investigation
- Author: Leroy Wright May 24, 2017,
May 24, 2017, 6:09
In addition to the requests to Coats and Rogers, senior White House officials sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly with Comey to encourage the Federal Bureau of Investigation to drop its probe of Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, the Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.
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.
In February, the Trump White House also sought to enlist senior members of the intelligence community and Congress to push back against suggestions that Trump associates were in frequent contact with Russian officials. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is surrounded by reporters as he leaves a briefing of the full Senate by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, amid controversy over President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, a. "Any political shaping of that intelligence would not be appropriate", he said.
Trump has repeatedly blasted the FBI investigation and has called the idea that anyone on his campaign colluded with Russian Federation - which the USA intelligence community has concluded did meddle in the 2016 elections - a "hoax" and has blasted it as a "witch hunt".
Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and railed against the investigations into his campaign's alleged ties to Russian Federation.
Current and former officials said either Trump lacks an understanding of the FBI's role as an independent law enforcement agency or does not care about maintaining such boundaries.
'It jeopardizes sources and methods that are invaluable, ' he added.
Mueller was appointed as special counsel for the investigation last week, but concerns were raised over his ability to conduct a broad probe, because of an ethics rule barring newly hired government employees from participating in cases involving their former employers for a year. That's something the President himself allegedly asked former FBI Director Comey to do during a private dinner.
"There's no way in the world Mueller wants his witness testifying", the source said.
Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote on Twitter on Monday that Comey now wanted to speak to Mueller before he gives public testimony and that a hearing scheduled for Wednesday next week had been postponed.
"So it once again reminds us that this threat is real, it is not going away, and needs significant attention to do everything we can to protect our people from these kinds of attacks", Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said during testimony Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" that he was as "shocked as anybody else" upon hearing the news and noted Coats and Rogers had appeared before the panel earlier this month.
They also said the Justice Department's appointment of a special counsel has created a legally risky environment for him to cooperate with the Senate panel's investigation.