Last week continued the stream of ugly revaluations concerning the investigation into how the Donald Trump campaign was tied to the Russian government. The high point—low point—of that week was likely finding that Donald Trump pressured then FBI director James Comey to drop his investigation into Michael Flynn. It certainly wasn’t the first instance in which Trump clearly acted to interfere with the investigation into the connections between his campaign and the Russian government, but it was the most blatant. Until this week.
President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.
History may not repeat itself, but sometimes the rhyme is loud enough to be deafening.
Trump had earlier called on intelligence officials to help counter news stories about connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. But this time, Trump was using other agencies to directly interfere with the FBI investigation.Haldeman proposed to Nixon that the deputy CIA director Vernon Walters calls the current head of the FBI Patrick Gray and tells him something like: “Stay the hell out of this …this is ah, business here we don’t want you to go any further on it.”Nixon approved such a plan and said: “You call them in. Good. Good deal. Play it tough. That’s the way they play it and that’s the way we are going to play it.”
Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.
Trump pressured Comey to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who on Monday invoked his fifth amendment rights rather than appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Unable to secure Comey’s cooperation, Trump then turned to the DNI and NSA to apply additional leverage, all with the direct intention of halting the investigation.
Trump sought the assistance of Coats and Rogers after FBI Director James B. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 that the FBI was investigating “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”It’s a incident so evocative of the past, it’s as if Trump were treating Watergate not as a cautionary tale, but a guidebook.
Not only was Trump trying to use one part of the intelligence agency against another, he did so knowing that what he was asking the agencies to do was not just interference, but a lie.
“The problem wasn’t so much asking them to issue statements, it was asking them to issue false statements about an ongoing investigation,” a former senior intelligence official said of the request to Coats.Trump told Comey to stop. He wouldn’t. He told Rodgers and Coats to stop Comey. They wouldn’t. Then Trump took action himself and fired Comey.
How did the revelation of this information play out last time?
When the tape became public, it became clear that Nixon lied to the American people about his involvement in the scandal. Only three days after the publication of the tape, Nixon resigned as president. Chief of Staff Haldeman spent 18 months in prison.