A new report from The Associated Press that includes emails and documents released by WikiLeaks provides new details on how the Trump administration dealt with the fallout from a 2015 Russia-sponsored hacking campaign.
The AP’s reporting provides a rare window into the intense political pressure the Trump White House faced to get the Trump-Russia investigation resolved.
Read moreAt a time when Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump’s own administration were seeking to end the Russia-Trump campaign interference and intelligence leaks, there was a rush by the White House and the Justice Department to get this case over with as soon as possible, according to emails and other documents released this week by WikiLeaks.
In response to a series of congressional subpoenas, the Trump team threatened to turn over all emails and information about the Russian effort, but it never did.
Instead, it issued an emergency directive that prevented federal prosecutors from asking for the emails and communications of anyone involved in the Russian cyberattacks.
The order was also designed to prevent the disclosure of any information that might be used to support or otherwise assist any political or social agenda, including in connection with the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the documents show.
The White House said in a statement that the emergency order prevented the release of the emails in any way that would help the special prosecutor in his investigation and that the administration was committed to protecting the integrity of the investigation.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
The documents, including a June 2016 email, show that White House officials wanted the special prosecutors to get involved in Russia-related matters because they feared they would not be able to obtain the information they needed without the assistance of the FBI and CIA.
In an email to an FBI official, Trump’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said the special investigators were in a “very tight spot,” the Associated Press reported, and they needed help.
Rhodes was referring to the special attorneys, who have been working in secret for months to gather information about Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the subsequent hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other entities.
The AP first reported on the Trump campaign’s request for the Russian hacking probes last week, and the news organization said in an article Wednesday that the special investigator who is leading the investigation is Robert Mueller, the former FBI director appointed by Trump to lead the special commission.
The Mueller probe has been one of the most contentious probes in U.K. history, and it is also an example of how the FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies have worked in tandem to build an image of Russian interference to target and discredit Democrats.
Trump has denied any collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin and said the reports about him colluding with Russia are “fake news.”
The president has also denied having any personal knowledge of the Russian interference, a charge his White House has vigorously denied.
“The president has never met with or spoken to anyone from Russia, let alone any Russian officials,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Thursday.
The Trump administration has also maintained that the emails were not obtained through hacking, as some critics have alleged.
The AP report is based on emails from a former FBI official who has previously discussed the Russia probe with other former FBI officials, according the AP.
Trump’s administration has made several efforts to prevent public access to the investigation, but has faced fierce resistance in Congress.
A federal judge blocked a Trump administration attempt to force congressional staffers to sign nondisclosure agreements in January, arguing the agreement violated the constitutional protections against self-incrimination.
The Associated Press obtained more than 40 pages of emails from former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who resigned in October after revelations that he had discussed the investigation with a confidante and the former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, in the months before he was fired in May.
The emails were among more than 1,100 pages of documents released in the FBI’s ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the presidential election.