Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats told associates in March that President Donald Trump asked him to get FBI Director Jim Comey to lay off his probe of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, The Washington Post reported.
The request reportedly came March 22, just days after Coats' Senate confirmation.
According to the Post, Coats attended a White House briefing with several other officials from government agencies. As the meeting wrapped up, Trump asked everyone to leave except Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Once alone, Trump complained about Comey's handling of the investigation into Flynn's possible role in the FBI probe into Russian meddling in the presidential election.
Coats talked about the issue with associates and decided it would not be proper to act, according to sources who talked to the Post.
Coats is set to testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, one day before Comey talks to the same panel.
A memo of one of Comey's own meetings with Trump indicate the president asked him to back off the Flynn probe, but Comey refused. Trump fired Comey on May 9, saying it was related to improper handling of the Hillary Clinton probe last summer.
But he told NBC News anchor Lester Holt later in May the Russia probe — though a "made-up story" according to Trump — was on his mind when he fired Comey.
It was after Comey's refusal to drop to the probe Trump talked to Coats. Coats, however, does not have authority over the FBI in issues such as the Russia probe.
In addition to asking Coats to try to influence Comey, Trump also asked Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers to issue statements saying no evidence of collusion between his administration and Russia existed. Both declined.
The Russia probe is now being headed by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The Post story shows Trump tried multiple times to make the investigation go away by going to the "principal conductors" of those probes, former Post reporter Carl Bernstein told CNN.
"What we are going to hear before the committee is the testimony of one of those people and a narrative of how that occurred from the point of view of Mr. Comey," Bernstein told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."
But, he added, Republicans on the committee might attempt to discredit Comey's testimony.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., "has an opportunity here to maybe be the Howard Baker, similar to the Watergate investigation, and say, 'What did the president know, and when did he know it?'" Bernstein said.
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