Senate testimony from two top intelligence officials shows President Donald Trump was "incautious" in his conversations with them, but "probably not obstructing justice," Bill Kristol, editor at large of The Weekly Standard, told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.
"One has a sense that Trump is very incautious about asking people to think about doing things, but he doesn't order them to do things, so he's probably not obstructing justice. He's probably being a little reckless in his conversations," Kristol said to Newsmax's Steve Malzberg.
On Wednesday, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and National Intelligence Director Daniel Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee — probing whether Trump tried to stop a probe of Russian ties to his presidential campaign — that they'd never felt pressured to do anything inappropriate. But both refused to answer allegations that they were asked by Trump to interfere in the FBI probe.
Kristol told Malzberg that people watching the Senate hearings should "be careful about jumping to conclusions" too quickly.
"We just don't know everything. We don't know what other conservations people had with the chief of staff or with the attorney general and what other people with documents there are. So we're seeing tiny bits of the elephant here," he said.
"It's not even clear what Trump could've ordered them to do it since the FBI director doesn't report to them so they're not really running the investigation. Trump doesn't quite understand maybe how these things work, but . . . so far [there's] no clear evidence of obstruction.
"But I think it's also a mistake to assume that we won't get all kinds of pieces of evidence maybe that we don't know about now. I think it's very hard to say. Very hard to say."
Kristol said he is skeptical about a statement made by James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence who said the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon "pales" in comparison to the controversy surrounding the Trump and Russia.
"I'm a little dubious that Clapper knows enough to say that. Watergate is a good example. We didn't know what had happened until the investigation went on for a while. It turns out Nixon had ordered burglaries and was covering them up," Kristol said.
"That was a pretty conscience effort to prevent people from finding out the truth and probably the truth about something illegal that the president had personally ordered. And also, he abused the FBI and the CIA and so forth. I think that's pretty clear from the historians. We don't know either with Trump, really."
On Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee will hear former FBI chief James Comey, who was fired by Trump after allegedly asking him to drop a probe into former national security adviser Mike Flynn's ties with Russia.
"We know that there was Russian interference in the election and there may or may not have been some collusion with Trump . . . Trump [is] not running the administration the way I would like, the way I think is very good for the country honestly, but he's allowed to fire an FBI director," Kristol said.
Kristol's publication, which he co-founded in 1995, is a conservative opinion magazine based in Washington D.C.
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