The Washington Post report that White House staffers were involved in President Trump’s alleged effort to shut down the FBI’s investigation into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn increases the legal and political peril for the administration as Robert Mueller’s inquiry moves forward.
On Monday, the Post reported that Trump had asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Director Mike Rogers to push back on the testimony of the March then-FBI Director Jim Comey that Trump campaign associates were being scrutinized as a part of the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election. Both officials reportedly refused.
“This is very close to what Nixon tried to do in drawing in the CIA to short circuit the FBI investigation during Watergate,” said a former high-ranking Justice Department official. “His advisers could be very much at risk if they played a role in the alleged interference.” The Post did not mention whether Trump-appointed CIA Director Mike Pompeo received a similar request.
Trump was already facing accusations from Democrats that he engaged in obstruction of justice for firing Comey after asking him to shut down the investigation into Flynn, lying about the reasons why Comey was pushed out, and then acknowledging that the Russia inquiry had been a factor. The New York Times reported last week that Trump told Russian officials during an Oval Office visit that firing Comey had “taken off” pressure caused by the Russia investigation.