A few days prior to James Comey’s bombshell Senate testimony, in which he confirmed that President Trump pressured him to drop part of the probe into Russian collusion, two top U.S. intelligence chiefs stunningly refused to comment on the matter of whether Trump tried to influence any ongoing investigations. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers both insisted that they could not address such matters in an open hearing. They even refused to even give simple “yes” or “no” answers on whether any White House had pressured them to knowingly issue false statements. Now, a CNN report says that Coats and Rogers admitted to Special Counsel Robert Mueller that Trump suggested they publicly refute accusations that his campaign colluded with Russia.
During the meeting with Mueller, Coats and Rogers — who have since also met behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence Committee — were reportedly more forthcoming about what appear to be inappropriate requests by a president. However, multiple sources told CNN that they stopped short of accusing him of interfering with an investigation:
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers described their interactions with the President about the Russia investigation as odd and uncomfortable, but said they did not believe the President gave them orders to interfere, according to multiple sources familiar with their accounts.
Both men told Mueller’s team they were surprised the President would suggest that they publicly declare he was not involved in collusion, sources said. Mueller’s team, which is in the early stages of its investigation, will ultimately decide whether the interactions are relevant to the inquiry.
Coats and Rogers appear to have carefully framed their statements, and while talking to the Senate, they stressed that Trump (as he did with Comey) wanted them to publicly say that he wasn’t under investigation. However, they don’t feel like Trump was telling them “to do something they did not want to do,” but it’s notable that they never fulfilled his suggestions. They simply refused to answer, which speaks volumes.
On a related note, Trump’s regular morning tweetstorm was heavy on the Russia while the president tried to pass blame onto Obama and the Democrats. He accuses Obama of failing to stop the election hacking, and then he once again dropped a “hoax” accusation because the Democrats lost the election (and, in Trump’s mind, are retaliating with collusion accusations). He’s so exhausting.