- President Donald Trump has reportedly been lobbying Republican members of Congress to end their investigations of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
- Trump urged Sen. Richard Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, to shut down the panel’s Russia inquiry.
- Trump’s lobbying resembles his moves earlier this year to get the FBI Director James Comey to close an investigation into the president’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
- Flynn is a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and is thought to be cooperating with Mueller.
President Donald Trump has been lobbying members of his own party to end the various congressional investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
Trump during the summer reportedly spoke to lawmakers directly involved in ongoing congressional inquiries on the matter. The president’s alleged moves, outlined in a New York Times report published Thursday, cited multiple sources who spoke on and off the record, including the Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and the Senate Judiciary Committee are conducting their own investigations over Russia’s efforts to influence US voters in last year’s election.
Those probes are separate from that of special counsel Robert Mueller’s, who has impaneled a grand jury and is leading a broad review of Russian meddling and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.
In a phone interview with Burr, the senator told The Times that Trump repeatedly prodded him to “move on” from the Russia matter, which Trump has previously complained has overshadowed his first year in office. “It was something along the lines of ‘I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible,'” Burr told the newspaper.
According to an unnamed Republican close to Burr, Trump was “very forceful” in his admonitions, The Times’ Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman, and Alex Burns wrote.
Trump has reportedly spoken to multiple GOP lawmakers, some of whom are directly involved in the congressional inquiries, urging them to shut it down. The president in meetings with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, expressed his frustration that Republicans were not doing enough to “lift the cloud of suspicion over Russia,” The Times said.
Several Republicans brushed aside Trump’s overtures – which reportedly happened months after his inauguration – as the fumbling of a newcomer to politics, unaware of the standards of presidential conduct.
Descriptions of Trump’s apparent behind-the-scenes lobbying resemble his interactions with FBI Director James Comey earlier this year, when Trump allegedly pressed Comey to end the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign in February. According to congressional testimony Comey gave in June, Trump told him, “I really hope you can let this go,” referring to the investigation of Flynn.
Comey never obliged the request. Trump fired him in May and later acknowledged in a television interview and in an Oval Office meeting with Russian diplomats that the Russia investigation was one reason why he fired the FBI director. Trump said the decision had taken “great pressure” off of him.
Mueller is reportedly putting together an obstruction of justice case against Trump related to Comey’s firing. It was not immediately clear whether Mueller was aware of Trump’s Russia-related discussions with members of Congress.
Flynn’s lawyers are thought to be cooperating with Mueller after it was revealed last week that Flynn’s attorneys have stopped collaborating with Trump’s lawyers, a move seen as a sign Flynn may be negotiating a plea deal.
To date, Trump, his campaign, and members of his Cabinet who are subjects of the Russia investigation have denied any wrongdoing.
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