Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Trump's Interference In Russiagate Investigation, Cont. (UPDATED)

Amid the anticipation surrounding former FBI Director James Comey's testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, the Washington Post has a blockbuster report that fits a pattern of, if not outright obstruction, consciousness of guilt by Putin puppet Donald "Rump" Trump. It makes today's Senate Intelligence Committee hearing potentially as damaging to Rump as what could be in store for him on Thursday:
The nation’s top intelligence official told associates in March that President Trump asked him if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials. 
On March 22, less than a week after being confirmed by the Senate, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attended a briefing at the White House together with officials from several government agencies. As the briefing was wrapping up, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. 
The president then started complaining about the FBI investigation and Comey’s handling of it, said officials familiar with the account Coats gave to associates. Two days earlier, Comey had confirmed in a congressional hearing that the bureau was probing whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 race. 
After the encounter, Coats discussed the conversation with other officials and decided that intervening with Comey as Trump had suggested would be inappropriate, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters. [snip] 
Coats will testify on Wednesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Lawmakers on the panel said they would press him for information about his interactions with the president regarding the FBI investigation.
 Coats, as well as Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers, are slated to testify today starting at 10 a.m. EDT on various aspects of the investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election which, according to a leaked NSA document, was far more widespread and specific than previously revealed. Keep an eye on how Republicans on the committee deal with the testimony today and tomorrow (spoiler alert: running interference for Rump will be their top priority). The other issue at play that would determine how much is or is not revealed during the testimony today and tomorrow is to what extent Special Counsel Robert Mueller has provided legal parameters to the witnesses in order to safeguard the integrity of his expanding investigation.

Regardless, it's hard to escape the feeling that the walls are closing in on Rump and his regime.

UPDATE: While executive privilege wasn't invoked by Coats or Rogers, they declined to answer the simple question of whether they even had a conversation with Rump concerning the FBI investigation, saying that they couldn't discuss it in open session. Dem Senators pressed them on their rationale for not responding but didn't receive a satisfactory response from either. Independent Maine Sen. Angus King had a testy exchange with Rogers over the refusal to answer the key question:

McCabe and Rosenstein fell back on the "ongoing Special Counsel" investigation tact to skirt those type of questions. The Dems finally got an agreement from Coats, Rogers, et al to answer the questions in a closed session at 2 p.m. today. So much for transparency.

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