US president Donald Trump’s apparent attempts to get federal investigators to stop looking into his former national security adviser may have gone further than initial reports indicated.
Trump in March asked the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, for his help to convince then-FBI Director James Comey to back off of Michael Flynn, The Washington Post reported Tuesday night.
The Post’s Adam Entous wrote that Trump and several government officials met for a briefing at the White House on March 22. After the meeting, Trump asked everyone to leave the room, except for Coats and Mike Pompeo, who heads the CIA.
“The president then started complaining about the FBI investigation and Comey’s handling of it,” The Post reported.
Trump’s complaints came just days after Comey confirmed in a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI is looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
Trump previously asked Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn, according to a memo Comey wrote about the conversation that was cited by The New York Times. Trump fired Comey on May 9 and later signalled in interviews that he had the Russia investigation in mind when he decided to make the move.
Flynn is one of several key players in a broad US investigation of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Flynn was forced to resign as Trump’s national security adviser in February after misleading top administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, about multiple contacts he had with the Russian ambassador during the transition.
Flynn also drew scrutiny for his appearance at a Moscow gala hosted by the state-sponsored outlet Russia Today in 2015. At the gala, Flynn was seated next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Flynn was paid about $US33,000 for a speech he gave at the event, but he did not disclose that payment on his security clearance application in 2016.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner has also been under the FBI’s microscope for his own interactions with Russian diplomats and business figures in recent weeks.
Some legal experts and critics have suggested that Trump’s alleged appeals to turn investigators off Flynn’s trail and the timing of his firing Comey could skirt close to obstruction of justice. To date, neither Trump, nor anyone associated with his campaign has been formally accused of any wrongdoing.
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