As USA Today reports, the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election reveals many occasions where President Donald Trump leaned on intelligence chiefs during the probe.
In 2017, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats had to tell Trump that his job prevented him from getting involved in FBI investigations. Not only that, on more than one occasion the president complained to Mike Pompeo, Trump’s first CIA director, that nobody was publicly defending him during the midst of the Russia probe. And Michael Rogers, who headed the National Security Agency in 2017, was reportedly so taken aback by Trump’s attempt to get him to refute news stories linking him to Russia that he documented the conversation.
While Trump has always voiced his skepticism at the idea that the actions of Russia helped him win the White House, Mueller’s report sheds more light on the fractured relationship between the president and the leaders of the intelligence community. While Rogers retired last year, Coats is still advising Trump in the same position, although he’s had several clashes with Trump that shed doubt on the longevity of his job. Pompeo is no longer CIA director but is now Trump’s secretary of state.
Although Coats claims that Trump never asked him to talk to then-FBI Director James Comey, his aides insist that on March 22, 2017, there was an Oval Office meeting that included Trump, Coats, and Pompeo. Michael Dempsey, a Coats aide, claims that Coats said after the meeting that Trump asked him to talk to Comey and tried to get him to end the Russia probe. He added that Coats said he would not get involved with an ongoing FBI investigation.
Trump reportedly complained about the investigation to Coats in a phone call three days after the Oval Office meeting, and Coats told the president that the best thing to do was let the investigation run its course. After this, Rogers reportedly got a similar call from Trump in which the president asked him if he could refute the news stories on the Russia investigation.
Both Coats and Rogers testified before Congress and stated that they did not feel that Trump was pressuring them to do what he wanted. And while Pompeo denied remembering the March 22 meeting, he said that he remembers Trump frequently urging people to spread the word that he didn’t do anything wrong with Russia.
One part of the Mueller report states that Trump may have tried to get Mueller fired because of his investigation into potential obstruction of justice. But White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign because he would rather give up his job than fire Mueller, referencing the actions of former President Richard Nixon firing prosecutors during the Watergate investigation.
Ultimately, the report suggests that Trump was unsuccessful in his attempts to influence the investigation.
“The president’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that was largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests. Consistent with that pattern, the evidence we obtained would not support potential obstruction of justice charges against the president’s aides and associates beyond those already filed.”