President Donald Trump on Thursday morning once again dismissed the Russia investigation as a “phony story” and blasted federal investigators as “bad and conflicted people” after a report said special counsel Robert Mueller is examining whether the president attempted to obstruct justice.
Trump has repeatedly lambasted the Russia probe as a “witch hunt,” using the phrase in at least eight tweets since March.
Mueller and his team of investigators are interviewing senior intelligence officials about Trump’s role as part of an expanded probe, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday night. NBC News has not confirmed that the president is under investigation.
Those who have agreed to be interviewed, according to the Post, include Dan Coats, director of national intelligence; Mike Rogers, chief of the National Security Agency; and Richard Ledgett, who recently left his post as deputy to Rogers.
Former FBI head James Comey, who testified under oath before Congress last week, said he had told the president on multiple occasions that he personally was not under investigation during the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Comey, however, would not say that publicly, citing the fact that the investigation was ongoing.
The situation changed, the Post reported, after Trump fired Comey. Days after the FBI chief was ousted, Trump told NBC News’ Lester Holt that the Russia probe played a role in his explosive decision to dismiss him. At his hearing last week, Comey testified that he believed he was fired on May 9 “because of the Russia investigation.”
At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last week, Coats and Rogers refused to say whether Trump asked them to intervene in the investigation, which is also examining whether the Trump campaign team colluded with Russia during last year’s presidential campaign.
“In the three-plus years that I have been director of the National Security Agency, I have never been directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical, or inappropriate, and to the best of my recollection, during that same period of service I do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so,” Rogers said.
Mueller, a former FBI chief, met Wednesday with the heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Sen Mark Warner, D-VA, said in a statement Wednesday that they “look forward to future engagements” with the special counsel.