How Badly Did Trump Want to Stop the FBI Investigation?

The Washington Post broke another story on the Trump/Russia probe last night.

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…

The events involving Coats show the president went further than just asking intelligence officials to deny publicly the existence of any evidence showing collusion during the 2016 election, as The Washington Post reported in May. The interaction with Coats indicates that Trump aimed to enlist top officials to have Comey curtail the bureau’s probe.

We now know of four times that either Trump or someone in his administration asked an official in the justice/intelligence community to intervene in the investigation. Here they are in chronological order:

January 27 – Trump has dinner with Comey and asks him for a pledge of loyalty. That happened one day after Sally Yates informed the administration that Michael Flynn could be compromised with the Russians due to his lies about meetings with the Russian ambassador.

February 13 – Trump clears the room after a meeting on terrorism threats and asks Comey to end the investigation into Michael Flynn. That happened one day after Flynn was forced to resign.

February 14 – Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asks McCabe and Comey to refute stories about Trump campaign staff being in contact with Russian officials.

March 22 – The conversation reported above between Trump, Coats and Pompeo – coming two days after Comey announced the investigation publicly at a congressional hearing.

It is also important to note the administration’s attempts to distract attention from the investigation with Trump’s tweets claiming he had been wiretapped by Obama on March 4th and the whole affair between Rep. Devin Nunes and Ezra Cohen-Watnick to create a controversy over the unmasking of names in intelligence reports by the Obama administration, which also followed Comey’s public announcement about the investigation.

Combined with all the lies Trump and his staff have told about their involvement with Russians, this paints a clear picture of an administration that, at minimum, has something to hide. At worst, it also makes a pretty strong case for obstruction of justice.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.