Adam Entous, national security reporter for The Washington Post, talks with Rachel Maddow about new reporting that DNI Dan Coats told associates that Donald Trump had pressed him on ways to get James Comey to stop the Trump-Russia investigation.
Two weeks later, on February 14, Trump kicked Vice President Mike Pence, Sessions and other senior administration officials out of the Oval Office so he could have his one-on-one conversation with Comey, according to people briefed on one of Comey's memos. On Tuesday evening a person familiar with the situation said Comey had told Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he did not want to be left alone with Trump.
Coats reportedly discussed that March conversation with other officials and decided that interceding with Comey, as Trump had suggested, would be inappropriate.
It was not immediately clear when the conversation occurred.
Citing US officials, it said Coats had told associates that Trump asked him whether he could intervene with Comey to get the Federal Bureau of Investigation to ease its probe of Flynn. He said Sessions "doesn't believe it's appropriate to respond to media inquiries on matters that may be related to ongoing investigations".
The White House had originally claimed Trump fired Comey in May on the recommendation of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy US Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but Trump later said in he always meant to fire Comey. It accuses him of being "consumed with election meddling" even as "terror attacks were on the rise".
The Republican National Committee seized on that element of Comey's testimony in a statement Wednesday, a potential sign of the rapid response the party is planning for Thursday's hearing. An RNC research email Monday issued a challenge to the lawmakers who will question Comey.
Asked Tuesday about Comey's coming testimony, Trump replied, "I wish him luck".
In his testimony, Comey said he offered Trump an assurance that he was not under investigation during a January 6 briefing held with the President-elect at Trump Tower.
Two days earlier Comey had revealed during Senate testimony that Trump's associates and campaign team were under investigation as part of an FBI probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
That potential bombshell testimony - in which Comey also may address whether Trump urged him to halt or ease up on an investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn and his ties to Russian Federation - comes Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Reports about contemporaneous memos he drew up after the meetings indicate Trump requested Comey drop his probe into Flynn. The recording, which Nixon fought to hide, showed the then-president discussing a plan with an aide: they'd try to get intelligence officials to help derail the FBI's ongoing investigation into the scandal.
While the intended focus of Wednesday's hearing is the foreign intelligence surveillance law, other senators have said they plan to question Coats, Rogers, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about whether the president meant to derail the Russian Federation investigation when he fired Comey.
White House officials had weighed trying to block Comey from testifying on Thursday by arguing that his discussions with the president pertained to national security and that there was an expectation of privacy. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the president plans to attend an infrastructure summit in the morning, then address the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" conference at 12:30 p.m.