Much like in the days of President Richard M. Nixon and the infamous Watergate scandal in the early 1970s, The Washington Post has possibly uncovered evidence of corruption at the highest levels of the United States government.
Instead of rookie reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein this time, however, veteran reporters at the Post have claimed that President Trump called two top intelligence community figures to request that they publicly deny any evidence of collusion between his campaign and the Russian government that may have influenced the outcome of the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton, the heavy favorite, lost to Trump in the electoral college race despite boasting a three-million advantage in actual votes.
Trump, according to the Post and confirmed by CNN, phoned the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers after then-FBI Director James Comey publicly revealed before the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 that the FBI had an investigation underway into possible collusion to influence the 2016 election.
Both Coats and Rogers were uncomfortable with the nature of the president’s request and refused to comply, CNN reports.
If true, this would constitute investigative interference by Trump, which some political pundits say meets the criteria for obstruction of justice by a sitting president.
A White House spokesperson, who declined to be identified by name, told the media, “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.”
In February, the media reported the White House had asked the FBI to push back against stories in the press about potential coordination between Trump associates and Russia.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, and ranted against the investigations into his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia repeatedly through a series of email rants, calling the probe a “witch hunt.”
The Post story said a record of Trump’s request to Rogers was in a memo from a senior NSA official — and that memo, as well as any that may be from the DNI’s office, would be available to former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed last week to head the Justice Department’s investigation.
Mueller had been briefed on memos Comey had written about his interactions with Trump, including his recollection of Trump asking for the FBI to end its investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Congressional investigators have requested copies of Comey’s memos and testimony from Comey himself.
Both Coats and Rogers are scheduled to appear before Congress this week, but not before either the House or Senate intelligence committees, which have separate investigations into Russian meddling in the election.
The Senate Armed Services Committee scheduled a hearing with Coats, and the House Armed Services Committee has one with Rogers.
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.
“Might be good to get them back,” Manchin said.