President Donald Trump reportedly asked two top intelligence officials to help him publicly push back against an FBI investigation into possible connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election.
Two current and two former unidentified officials told the Washington Post that Trump asked the director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Michael S. Rogers, and the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, to publicly deny there was any evidence of collusion.
The officials said that Coats and Rogers both turned Trump down because they thought his requests were inappropriate.
Trump reportedly asked Coats and Rogers to push back on the Russia probe after then-FBI Director James Comey told a House Intelligence Committee on March 20 about the agency's investigation into "the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts."
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The officials said that Trump's request to Rogers was documented by a senior NSA official in an internal memo.
"The problem wasn’t so much asking them to issue statements, it was asking them to issue false statements about an ongoing investigation," a former senior intelligence official told the newspaper.
According to a senior intelligence official, Trump wanted to "muddy the waters" about the FBI's investigation.
Brian Hale, a spokesman for Coats, refused to comment because of the ongoing investigation. The NSA also refused comment.
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A White House spokesman said: "The White House does not confirm or deny unsubstantiated claims based on illegal leaks from anonymous individuals. The president will continue to focus on his agenda that he was elected to pursue by the American people."
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said the Washington Post's report is "yet another disturbing allegation that the president was interfering in the FBI probe."
In more Trump-Russia news, Democratic Rep. Elijiah Cummings of Maryland sent a letter to Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, informing him that Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn appeared to lie to security clearance investigators in 2016, notes NBC News:
The Oversight Committee has in our possession documents that appear to indicate that General Flynn lied to the investigators who interviewed him in 2016 as part of his security clearance renewal.
Specifically, the Committee has obtained a Report of Investigation dated March 14, 2016, showing that General Flynn told security clearance investigators that he was paid by "U.S. companies" when he traveled to Moscow in December 2015 to dine at a gala with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The actual source of the funds for General Flynn's trip was not a U.S. company, but the Russian media propaganda arm, RT.
An unidentified U.S. official told NBC News that Flynn did not answer a question on his security clearance form about any business transactions or relationships with foreign entities.
The official stated: "It was a lie of omission."