Russia probe's Robert Mueller asked US intelligence officials about Donald Trump: Sources

Intelligence officers have been asked whether Trump (above) tried to obstruct justice in the Russia probe. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Senior US intelligence officers including CIA director Mike Pompeo have been questioned by the US special counsel's team about whether President Donald Trump tried to obstruct justice in the Russia probe, sources told Reuters on Wednesday (Jan 24).

Such questioning is further indication that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's federal investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US election and potential collusion by Trump's campaign includes examining the President's actions around the probe.

In interviews last year with Pompeo, director of national intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency director Mike Rogers, Mueller's team focused on whether Trump had asked them to lean on former FBI director James Comey, the sources said.

Comey said after he was dismissed by Trump in May that the President had fired him to try to undermine the agency's Russia investigation. His dismissal led to Mueller's appointment to take over the FBI probe and is central to whether Trump may have committed obstruction of justice.

Mueller also asked the officials if Trump tried to shut down intelligence investigations into Russian election meddling and into contacts between Russian officials connected with President Vladimir Putin's government and associates of Trump or his campaign, the sources said on condition of anonymity.

Pompeo's questioning was first reported by NBC News on Wednesday, a day after the Justice Department said Mueller's office questioned Attorney-General Jeff Sessions last week.

Discussions have been under way about the possibility of Mueller's team interviewing Trump, according to a person familiar with the talks.

Comey told congressional investigators in June that Trump had demanded his loyalty, asked him to drop a probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and repeatedly pressed him to announce publicly that Trump was not under investigation.

Flynn has since pleaded guilty to a charge brought by Mueller of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mueller's office interviewed Comey shortly after he was fired, a source close to the investigation told Reuters.

Representatives for the CIA declined to comment on whether Pompeo had been interviewed.

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 campaign using hacking and propaganda to try to tilt the race in Trump's favour. Russia has denied it.

Trump has denied collusion with Russia and calls the probe a witch hunt. After Comey's accusation in June about the circumstances of his firing, Trump also denied any obstruction of justice.

Former White House strategist and Trump campaign aide Steve Bannon is expected to be questioned by Mueller's team about Flynn and Comey by the end of the month, NBC and CNN reported.

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