National News

NC's Burr: Trump pressed for end to Senate Russia inquiry

Posted December 1, 2017 10:20 a.m. EST
Updated December 1, 2017 10:21 a.m. EST

FILE — Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, then President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for National Security Adviser, in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Dec. 12, 2016. Flynn is expected to plead guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to lying to the FBI about a conversation with the Russian ambassador in December 2016.  (Sam Hodgson/The New York Times)

— President Donald Trump over the summer repeatedly urged senior Senate Republicans, including the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to end the panel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a half dozen lawmakers and aides. The requests were a highly unusual intervention from a president into a legislative inquiry involving his family and close aides.

Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the Intelligence Committee chairman, said in an interview this week that Trump told him that he was eager to see an investigation that had overshadowed much of the first year of his presidency come to an end.

“It was something along the lines of, ‘I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible,'” Burr said. He said he replied to Trump that “when we have exhausted everybody we need to talk to, we will finish.”

In addition, according to lawmakers and aides, Trump told Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of the Intelligence Committee, to end the investigation swiftly.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a former chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, said in an interview this week that Trump’s requests were “inappropriate” and represented a breach of the separation of powers.

Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said Thursday that the president had not acted improperly. Trump, he said, “at no point has attempted to apply undue influence on committee members” and believes “there is no evidence of collusion and these investigations must come to a fair and appropriate completion.”

Trump’s requests of lawmakers to end the Senate investigation came during a period in the summer when the president was particularly consumed with Russia and openly raging at his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from any inquiries into Russian meddling in the election.

Republicans played down Trump’s appeals, describing them as the actions of a political newcomer unfamiliar with what is appropriate presidential conduct.