President 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.
Trump’s requests were a highly unusual intervention from a president into a legislative inquiry involving his family and close aides.
Senator 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 has 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,’” Mr. Burr said. He said he replied to Mr. Trump that “when we have exhausted everybody we need to talk to, we will finish.”
In addition, according to lawmakers and aides, Trump told Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri and a member of the intelligence committee, to end the investigation swiftly.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who is a former chairwoman of the intelligence committee, said in an interview this week that Mr. Trump’s requests were “inappropriate” and represented a breach of the separation of powers.
“It is pressure that should never be brought to bear by an official when the legislative branch is in the process of an investigation,” Ms. Feinstein said.
Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said on Thursday that the president had not acted improperly. Mr. 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.
Trump often vented to his own aides and even declared his innocence to virtual strangers he came across on his New Jersey golf course.
In this same period, the president complained frequently to Mr. McConnell about not doing enough to bring the investigation to an end, a Republican official close to the leader said.
Republicans played down Trump’s appeals, describing them as the actions of a political newcomer unfamiliar with what is appropriate presidential conduct.
Source: New York Times