Intel Chiefs Tell Investigators Trump Suggested They Refute Collusion with Russians

Two of the nation’s top intelligence officials told Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and Senate investigators, in separate meetings last week, that President Donald Trump suggested they say publicly there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians, according to multiple sources.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers described their interactions with the President about the Russia investigation as odd and uncomfortable, but said they did not believe the President gave them orders to interfere, according to multiple sources familiar with their accounts.

Sources say both men went further than they did in June 7 public hearings, when they provided little detail about the interactions.

The sources gave CNN the first glimpse of what the intelligence chiefs said to Mueller’s investigators when they did separate interviews last week. Both men told Mueller’s team they were surprised the President would suggest that they publicly declare he was not involved in collusion, sources said. Mueller’s team, which is in the early stages of its investigation, will ultimately decide whether the interactions are relevant to the inquiry.

Coats and Rogers also met individually last week with the Senate intelligence committee in two closed briefings that were described to CNN by Democratic and Republican congressional sources. One source said that Trump wanted them to say publicly what then-FBI Director James Comey had told the President privately: that he was not under investigation for collusion. However, sources said that neither Coats nor Rogers raised concerns that Trump was pushing them to do something they did not want to do. They did not act on the President’s alleged suggestion.

Trump has said repeatedly that no collusion occurred. “After 7 months of investigations & committee hearings about my ‘collusion with the Russians,’ nobody has been able to show any proof. Sad!” he tweeted June 16. The White House did not comment for this story. The DNI, NSA and Mueller’s office also did not comment.

Because the meetings were classified, sources shared limited details. But they said the two intelligence leaders recounted conversations that appeared to show the President’s deep frustration that the Russia allegations have continued to cloud his administration. The question of what the President said to Coats and Rogers has been hanging over the administration since The Washington Post reported the interactions in late May.

CNN has confirmed the March interactions between the intelligence chiefs and the President in which he made the requests. These came a few days after Comey publicly confirmed for the first time the existence of the federal investigation of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

In a public Senate intelligence hearing earlier this month in which both men testified, senators in both parties grew frustrated and angry after neither would agree to clear up exactly what the President said to them. Rogers and Coats said they did not feel pressured to do anything but would not describe any details of their conversations with Trump.

“In the three-plus years that I have been the director of the National Security Agency, to the best of my recollection, I have never been directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate, and to the best of my recollection during that same period of service I do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so,” Rogers said during the public hearing.

Coats offered a similar response. “In my time of service, which is interacting with the President of the United States or anybody in his administration, I have never been pressured — I have never felt pressured — to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relation to an ongoing investigation,” he said.

The reason for their public reticence, one congressional source told CNN, is that Coats and Rogers had asked the White House for guidance on whether their conversations with the President were protected by executive privilege, which meant they would not be allowed to discuss it. They did not get an answer from the White House before testifying and did not know how to answer the committee. The result was an awkward and contentious public hearing.

In classified follow-up meetings with the Senate intelligence committee, they were more forthcoming, according to sources familiar with the closed-door session.

One congressional source expressed frustration that Coats and Rogers didn’t answer the questions in public, especially since what they ended up expressing in private was that they did not feel that the President pressured either of them to do anything improper.

Rogers’ interaction with the President is also documented in a memo written by his deputy at the NSA, Richard Ledgett.

One congressional source who has seen the memo tells CNN that it is one page and, unlike memos written by former FBI Director James Comey, does not have many details of the conversation. Instead, it simply documents that the interaction occurred — and makes clear that Rogers thought it was out of the ordinary.

Coats did not document his conversations with the President about the issue, the source said.


Trump Reportedly Asked Intelligence Chiefs to Publicly Push Back Against FBI Probe

A new report states that President Trump asked top intelligence leaders to join him in publicly denying that his presidential campaign coordinated with the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.

The Washington Post reports that Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and Michael S. Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency, were both asked by Trump to “push back” against the FBI after James Comey announced that a collusion investigation was underway. Trump’s request reportedly came after the former FBI director confirmed the probe before the House Intelligence Committee, and both Coats and Rogers declined Trump’s requests.

From WaPo:

Trump made his appeal to Coats days after Comey’s testimony, according to officials.

That same week, Trump telephoned Rogers to make a similar appeal.

In his call with Rogers, Trump urged the NSA director to speak out publicly if there was no evidence of collusion, according to officials briefed on the exchange.

Rogers was taken aback but tried to respectfully explain why he could not do so, the officials said. For one thing, he could not comment on an ongoing investigation. Rogers added that he would not talk about classified matters in public.@realDonaldTrump asked intel. chiefs to publicly deny #TrumpRussia and obstruct the @FBI investigation.

Intelligence officials have expressed that complying with the Trump Administration’s request would have had a major, negative impact on the credibility for their agencies.

“The problem wasn’t so much asking them to issue statements,” said one source who knew of Trump’s request for Coats. “It was asking them to issue false statements about an ongoing investigation.

The report also states that senior White House officials spoke with other intelligence officials, asking if there was a way for them to intervene or “shut down” Comey’s investigation:

In addition to the requests to Coats and Rogers, senior White House officials sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly with Comey to encourage the FBI to drop its probe of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, according to people familiar with the matter. The officials said the White House appeared uncertain about its power to influence the FBI.

“Can we ask him to shut down the investigation? Are you able to assist in this matter?” one official said of the line of questioning from the White House.

The report comes nearly a week after it was reported that Comey kept a memo about how Trump asked him to cease his investigation into Michael Flynn.

In the past, there have been stories about how the Trump Administration was asking high-ranking intelligence officials and Congressional figures to denounce news stories about about how Trump’s staffers were connected to Russia. Trump fired Comey from his position approximately two week ago, and the resulting political storm still looms over the White House.

Trump has previously indicated that the Russia investigation was a motivating factor in his decision to fire Comey. During a recent meeting with Russian officials, Trump not only shared classified intelligence with them, he also called Comey a “nut job” and said his departure would alleviate pressure from the investigation.


NBC national security reporter Ken Dilanian has corroborated WaPo‘s report.


Trump’s official POTUS Twitter Account Completely Misrepresented the FBI Director’s Testimony on Russia

Donald Trump (more likely, his staff) spent the morning live tweeting the Russia hearing from the official @POTUS Twitter account, including videos with misleading captions seemingly designed to shift blame off him and his administration.

“FBI Director Comey refuses to deny he briefed President Obama on calls made by Michael Flynn to Russia,” the president tweeted.

The tweet implies Obama was the source of the Flynn leak. But Comey repeatedly told legislators in the hearing that he would not be able to comment on specific investigations and warned them not to read into his refusal to confirm or deny certain questions.

“Our ability to share details with the Congress and the American people is limited when those investigations are still open, which I hope makes sense,” Comey said. “We need to protect people’s privacy. We need to make sure we don’t give other people clues as to where we’re going. We need to make sure that we don’t give information to our foreign adversaries about what we know or don’t know.”

The president’s account also tweeted a similarly misleading caption and video combination featuring National Agency director Adm. Mike Rogers. He was responding to questions from Republican Rep. Devin Nunes about the NSA’s knowledge of Russian tampering in specific state vote tallies.

Rogers also offered this caveat: “I would highlight we are a foreign intelligence organization, not a domestic intelligence organization.”

The president seems unable to stop himself from composing tweets a reasonable person would understand to be false. The line of questioning occurred at all because Trump sent a series of tweets accusing President Obama of wiretapping his office at Trump Tower, an allegation the DOJ, FBI and NSA have all denied.

(h/t Vice News)