Donald Trump spent some time this summer asking Republican senators if they would wrap up their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to the New York Times.
Trump reached out to top GOP lawmakers, including Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the chair of the Senate Intelligence committee that is leading the investigation into Russian meddling. Burr and some of his colleagues appeared to brush off implication that Trump might have been trying to influence the investigation, with some characterizing Trump’s requests as just a guy still learning how to do this president thing, months into the job. Per the Times:
Mr. Burr said Mr. Trump was not fully aware of the impropriety of his request because the president still has the mind-set of a businessman rather than a politician. “Businessmen are paid to skip things that they think they can skip and get away with,” he said.
According to the report, Trump also expressed this desire — that the Senate quickly move on from the Russia investigation — to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who also sits on the intel committee. McConnell reportedly clarified to colleagues that Trump appeared to have trouble separating criticism of Russian meddling into the 2016 election — which US intelligence agencies concluded did happen — and the probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
Trump’s disdain for any inquiry into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is not a secret, particularly the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. He has repeatedly derided it as a “Russia hoax.”
The senators have clearly not caved to Trump’s demands, as the investigation has continued without interruption. But their defenses of Trump echo their justifications of the president’s firing of then-FBI Director James Comey — which Mueller is also investigating as possible obstruction of justice on the part of the president.
"The president's new at this,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said, after Comey’s firing. “He's new to government. So he probably wasn't steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI, and White House. He's just new to this."
Trump’s complaints about the Senate investigation came as late as August, according to the Times report, after Comey’s firing in June.
The White House denied any attempt by Trump to influence the outcome of the Senate investigation, saying the president believes “there is no evidence of collusion and these investigations must come to a fair and appropriate completion.’’