The Latest on Trump and the Russia Investigation

A few items of note from last night and this morning, centered around Donald Trump's apparent attempts to obstruct justice:

1. Trump tried to enlist multiple administration officials to pressure James Comey to stop investigating Michael Flynn.

Adam Entous at the Washington Post: Top Intelligence Official Told Associates Trump Asked Him If He Could Intervene with Comey on FBI Russia Probe.
The nation's top intelligence official told associates in March that [Donald] Trump asked him if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials.

On March 22, less than a week after being confirmed by the Senate, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attended a briefing at the White House together with officials from several government agencies. As the briefing was wrapping up, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

The president then started complaining about the FBI investigation and Comey's handling of it, said officials familiar with the account Coats gave to associates. Two days earlier, Comey had confirmed in a congressional hearing that the bureau was probing whether Trump's campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 race.

After the encounter, Coats discussed the conversation with other officials and decided that intervening with Comey as Trump had suggested would be inappropriate, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.

...The interaction with Coats indicates that Trump aimed to enlist top officials to have Comey curtail the bureau's probe.
2. Trump was putting so much pressure on Comey, that Comey told Jeff Sessions he didn't want to be alone with Trump anymore.

Matt Shuham at TPM: NYT: Comey Told Sessions He Didn't Want to Be Alone with Trump. "The day after [Donald] Trump allegedly asked then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the bureau's investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Comey told Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he did not want to be alone with the president again, the New York Times reported late Tuesday. Citing unnamed current and former law enforcement officials, the Times reported that Comey believed Sessions should protect the FBI from White House pressure. Sessions reportedly told Comey that he could not guarantee Trump wouldn't continue to attempt to speak to him one-on-one."

3. Trump's meddling was causing so much friction with Sessions that he offered to resign.

[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Jonathan Karl at ABC News: Attorney General Jeff Sessions Suggested He Could Resign Amid Rising Tension with Trump.
The friction between the two men stems from the attorney general's abrupt decision in March to recuse himself from anything related to the Russia investigation — a decision the president only learned about minutes before Sessions announced it publicly. Multiple sources say the recusal is one of the top disappointments of his presidency so far and one the president has remained fixated on.

Trump's anger over the recusal has not diminished with time. Two sources close to the president say he has lashed out repeatedly at the attorney general in private meetings, blaming the recusal for the expansion of the Russia investigation, now overseen by Special Counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

...Asked by ABC News if the attorney general had threatened or offered to resign, Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores declined to comment.

Meanwhile, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked [yesterday] if the president still has confidence in his attorney general. He could not say.
And by the end of the day yesterday, that question still had not been answered.

4. Three FBI officials can confirm Comey reported directly after his meeting with Trump that Trump tried to pressure him to drop the investigation of Flynn.

Ed Kilgore at New York Magazine: Comey Has 3 Top FBI Officials Who Can Corroborate His Account of Meeting Where Trump Pressured Him to Drop Flynn Investigation. "[W]ithin two days of Comey's fateful meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, he relayed his account of what Trump asked him to do (or undo) to three top FBI associates: Deputy Director (and now Acting Director) Andrew McCabe; Chief of Staff Jim Rybicki; and General Counsel James Baker. ...[Their] recollections and notes about the Comey-Trump meeting will be of great interest to special counsel Robert Mueller, who knows them all well. What makes the corroborating accounts so likely to come up when Comey testifies is the fact that Republicans on the committee apparently plan to make his failure to notify the Justice Department of Trump's alleged indiscretions grounds for doubting his story."

* * *

In related news, former CIA Director James Clapper says that Trump's relationship to Russia and subsequent attempts to squash investigations thereof is significantly worse than Watergate: "Clapper questioned Trump's continued pro-Russian stance, saying his sharing of intelligence with Russia 'reflect either ignorance or disrespect, and either is very problematic.' 'I think if you compare the two that Watergate pales, really, in my view, compared to what we're confronting now,' Clapper told reporters in Canberra, Australia's capital."

And finally: The new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that 56 percent "of U.S. adults say Trump is interfering with such investigations rather than cooperating" and 61 percent "say Trump fired Comey to protect himself rather than for the good of the country." Welp.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus