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'Post' Reports Trump Under Investigation Over Possible Obstruction Of Justice

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

After fired FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress, the president touted one particular revelation that came out of that. Here's Senator Roy Blunt questioning Comey.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROY BLUNT: Six weeks later, we're still telling that - we're telling the president on March the 30 that he was not personally the target of any investigation.

JAMES COMEY: Correct. On March the 30 and I think again on - I think on April 11 as well, I told him we're not investigating him personally. That was true.

MARTIN: Now we are learning that may no longer be the case. A new report in The Washington Post cites unnamed intelligence officials who say the president is now indeed under investigation for possible obstruction of justice. A spokesperson for President Trump's lawyer said, quote, "the FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal." Washington Post reporter Adam Entous and his colleagues broke the story last night. Adam joins us in our studios. Thanks for being here, Adam.

ADAM ENTOUS: Great to be here.

MARTIN: So the president wasn't under investigation, and now he is. What changed? What happened?

ENTOUS: Yeah, I mean, basically what happened was is, you know, the investigation started moving in a different direction after Comey was fired. And he produced these memos documenting his conversations with the president, in which the president had urged him to pull back on an investigation of Mike Flynn, his first national security adviser, and also did things that alarmed Comey to such a degree that he was alerting his higher-ups and his colleagues about those things.

That and other details which have since emerged about efforts by the president to try to, if you will, change the narrative, line up other officials to sort of back him up because he felt like Comey was not a - was not doing what he wanted, that basically brought the special counsel to this point, where they've opened, effectively, a file on the president, which may or may not lead to any charges of any kind.

MARTIN: So you say this is centering around Comey's firing, but as you mention, other administration officials are involved. This is - you're referring to Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, and Mike Rogers, NSA director?

ENTOUS: Right. Basically, after Comey testifies on March 20 and says publicly for the first time that there is an investigation looking at possible coordination between the Russians and the Trump campaign. Now, Comey had assured the president privately, starting in January and a total of three times, that he was not a target.

The president was frustrated. He wanted that out there, which I think is very understandable, frankly - that he was being assured something privately and not getting that public support that he wanted. And so then he starts, you know, basically trying to line up other officials to basically defend him publicly.

And again, it's not - it's not unusual to have that feeling. But there are these boundaries that are set up to basically prevent senior intelligence officials from being pulled into politics.

MARTIN: So try - by trying to get more attention for the fact that he wasn't under investigation, he landed himself under investigation.

ENTOUS: That doesn't mean it wouldn't have gone there anyways. And there was a debate within the senior leadership at the FBI over whether to tell the president in the first place that he wasn't - was not currently a target of the investigation or of a investigation. The danger in telling somebody that they're not a target is if the - if they do become a target, then do you have an obligation to correct the record with that person?

We don't know if that - we don't know if they - if they did go to the White House or go to the president to correct what Comey had previously told him.

MARTIN: How hard is it to prove obstruction of justice?

ENTOUS: Frankly, I'm not a legal scholar. I don't know how hard it would be to prove. Certainly I think it's premature to predict where this investigation is going to go. These are preliminary interviews, which may or may not convince the special counsel to pursue this. Even if they decided that they had enough evidence, we're dealing here with a sitting president. And so there is no process, really, for indictments.

There would be a political process that this would shift to, where Congress would need to decide whether or not the findings of the special counsel warrant action such as impeachment. But I think we're a very long way from that.

MARTIN: Adam Entous of The Washington Post, thanks so much for coming in this morning.

ENTOUS: Pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.