WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump repeatedly urged senior Senate Republicans over the summer to end the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including the panel’s chairman, the New York Times reported on Thursday, citing several lawmakers and aides.
Senator Richard Burr, the committee’s chairman, said in an interview this week Trump told him that he was eager to see the investigation come to an end, the Times reported. (http://nyti.ms/2AlKdmT)
“It was something along the lines of, ‘I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible,'” Burr told the Times. He said he replied to Trump that “when we have exhausted everybody we need to talk to, we will finish,” the newspaper reported.
The panel is among several congressional committees, along with the Justice Department’s special counsel Robert Mueller, investigating allegations that Russia sought to influence the U.S. election and potential collusion by Trump’s campaign.
Moscow has denied any meddling and Trump has said there was no collusion.
White House spokesman Raj Shah said on Thursday that the president had not acted improperly, the Times reported.
Trump “at no point has attempted to apply undue influence on committee members” and believes “there is no evidence of collusion and these investigations must come to a fair and appropriate completion,” the newspaper quoted Shah as saying.
White House officials did not immediately respond to a request by Reuters for comment.
Trump’s requests were a highly unusual intervention from a president into a legislative inquiry involving his family and close aides, the Times said.
Trump also told Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, and Republican Senator Roy Blunt, a member of the intelligence committee, to end the investigation swiftly, the Times reported, citing lawmakers and aides.
Spokesmen for McConnell, Burr and Blunt did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Times quoted Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, a former chairwoman of the intelligence committee, as saying in an interview this week that Trump’s requests were “inappropriate” and represented a breach of the separation of powers.
“It is pressure that should never be brought to bear by an official when the legislative branch is in the process of an investigation,” Feinstein was quoted as saying.
(Writing by Eric Walsh; Editing by Bill Rigby)