'Trump under probe for obstructing justice'
US President, Republicans hit out at Washington Post report
WASHINGTON: United States President Donald Trump is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible obstruction of justice, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified officials.
Mr Mueller is investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey told Congress last week he believes he was fired by Mr Trump to undermine the agency's Russia probe.
The Washington Post, citing five people who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mr Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, Mr Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, and Mr Richard Ledgett, the former deputy director at the NSA, had agreed to be interviewed by Mr Mueller's investigators as early as this week.
The obstruction of justice investigation into Mr Trump began days after Mr Comey was fired on May 9, according to people familiar with the matter, the Washington Post said.
Mr Trump lashed out on Twitter early yesterday.
"They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice."
Mr Trump's legal team quickly denounced the report on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
"The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal," a spokesman for Mr Trump's legal team, Mr Mark Corallo, said.
A spokesman for Mr Mueller's team declined to comment.
Quoting officials, the newspaper said one event of interest to Mr Mueller is an exchange on March 22, when Mr Coats told associates that Mr Trump had asked him to intervene with Mr Comey to get him to back off the focus on Mr Trump's former national security advisor Mike Flynn as part of the FBI probe of the Russia affair.
A few days after the March 22 meeting, Mr Trump spoke separately with Mr Coats and Mr Rogers and asked them to issue public statements to the effect that there was no evidence of coordination between his campaign and Russia, AFP reported.
The Post said both men refused the president's request.
Mr Mueller briefed senators on Wednesday on his work.
"I'm going to acknowledge we had a meeting with the special counsel Mueller, but I'm not going to get into the contents," Mr Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters later.
Republican National Committee chairman Ronna McDaniel called the accusation in the Post unfounded and said it "changes nothing".
"There's still no evidence of obstruction, and current and former leaders in the intelligence community have repeatedly said there's been no effort to impede the investigation in any way," she said in a statement.
"The continued illegal leaks are the only crime here." - REUTERS