Senate Intel panel won't investigate Trump obstruction question

The Senate Intelligence Committee won't investigate whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice in the probe into his campaign associates' contacts with Russian officials, leaving the matter to special counsel Robert Mueller, CNN reported Thursday.

News of the panel staying solely focused on probing Russia's role in the 2016 election came after the Republican and Democratic leaders of the committee met with Mueller on Wednesday to discuss the boundaries of their respective investigations.

"Obstruction is criminal — there's a criminal aspect to that," committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard BurrAn unlikely home in DC Senate intel panel to hold hearing on Russian meddling in Europe The Hill's Whip List: GOP undecided, 'no' votes pile up on ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-N.C.) told CNN. "It's never been part of our [investigation]."

Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark WarnerOvernight Finance: GOP divided over welfare cuts in budget | Lawmaker loses M on pharma stock he pitched | Yellen says another financial crisis unlikely in our lifetimes Overnight Cybersecurity: Obama faces new scrutiny for Russia response | UK parliament cyberattacked | Election hacking fears put heat on DHS | Feds appeal to Supreme Court over data warrants Election hacking fears turn heat on Homeland Security MORE (D-Va.) told CNN that while the intelligence panel will not focus its efforts on Trump's potential obstruction of justice, it will turn over any evidence it finds related to the matter to the special counsel.

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The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the federal investigation into Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election had expanded to include a probe of Trump's own conduct. 

Former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump abruptly fired last month, had reassured the president three times that he was not personally under investigation in the Russia probe. But, according to the Post, that changed soon after he was ousted.

News reports about Trump's interactions with Comey and other current and former intelligence officials have raised questions about whether the president sought to undermine or hinder law enforcement investigations into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and possible collusion between his campaign associates and Moscow.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel to lead the Russia probe shortly after Comey was fired in May.

One interaction that is of potential interest to investigators is a February meeting between Trump and Comey, in which the president pressed the former FBI director to shut down the bureau's investigation into Flynn, who had resigned amid revelations that he misled Vice President Pence about his conversations with Russia's ambassador.

But media reports have also indicated that Trump may have also asked Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDan CoatsThe Memo: GOP pushes Trump to curb Mueller attacks Merkley: Trump 'absolutely' tried to intimidate Comey Coats: Trump seemed obsessed with Russia probe MORE and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers to issue statements publicly announcing that there is no evidence suggesting collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, which they reportedly refused to do.

At least four congressional committees, including the Senate intelligence panel, are looking into Russia's efforts to swing the 2016 election in Trump's favor, as well as possible coordination between the president's associates and Moscow.