Trump urged Pompeo to get word out he ‘had not done anything wrong related to Russia’

Days after the FBI director testified to Congress on Russian interference in the 2016 election, President Donald Trump asked then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo to publicly state there were no links between him and Russia, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman who now serves as secretary of state, said he didn’t remember the request.

It’s one of the incidents that Mueller lays out in the second half of his long-awaited report, which deals with instances of obstruction by the president.

Two days after then-FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress in March of 2017, Trump asked Pompeo, then head of the CIA, and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats to stay behind after a daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office, the report states.

According to Coats, Trump “asked them whether they could say publicly that no link existed between him and Russia,” the report states.

Pompeo told Mueller’s office he didn’t remember the meeting, but did confirm that Trump was anxious for administration officials to push back on the notion that he had colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.

“Pompeo had no memory of the specific meeting, but generally recalled the President urging officials to get the word out that the President had not done anything wrong related to Russia,” the report states.

The Wichita Republican’s name appears a total of 13 times in Mueller’s report, but the report makes no allegations of wrongdoing on Pompeo’s part.

“Pompeo recalled that the President vented about the investigation on multiple occasions, complaining that there was no evidence against him and that nobody would publicly defend him.”

The report states that some officials in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Coats told them immediately following the March 2017 meeting “that the President asked Coats to intervene with Comey and ‘stop’ the investigation.” But it also notes that first-hand witnesses recall the conversation differently and that Pompeo doesn’t remember it.

Comey was fired as FBI director less two months after the meeting with Coats and Pompeo reportedly took place.

Pompeo faced criticism in October of 2017 for claiming in a speech that the assessment of the intelligence community was that “the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.”

Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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