At a Senate hearing earlier this monthDirector of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Director of the National Security Agency Mike Rogers refused to answer questions about any conversations they had held with Donald Trump, leaving Senators steaming. But behind closed doors, both men dropped their verbal games and carefully worded evasions.

Two of the nation's top intelligence officials told Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team and Senate investigators, in separate meetings last week, that President Donald Trump suggested they say publicly there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians, according to multiple sources.

During the earlier hearing, both Coats and Rogers claimed the non-privilege privilege that seems to be the general response of everyone in the Trump regime—an unsupportable claim that any conversation with Trump is automatically protected, even without any claim of executive privilege. Rogers also repeatedly retreated behind a claim that he had “never been directed to do anything illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate.”

But as many suspected at the time, the key to that phrase was in the word “directed.”

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers described their interactions with the President about the Russia investigation as odd and uncomfortable, but said they did not believe the President gave them orders to interfere, according to multiple sources familiar with their accounts.

 Trump merely asked them to interfere, he didn’t order them to do it. That’s where we are.

In James Comey’s testimony, Trump used the word ‘hoped.’ As in he hoped that Comey could find a way to drop the investigation against Michael Flynn.

Republicans quickly lined up behind this word, scoffing at the idea that any statement including ‘hoped’ could be taken as an order. But Comey left no doubt that he regarded Trump’s statement as pressure to drop the investigation—an impression that, considering the relative position of the two men, seems entirely logical. No one, if in a private meeting with not just their boss, but their boss’s boss, would readily dismiss a request for action, even if that action was couched in nice terms. The fact that Trump waited until he had Comey alone before making the request only emphasized the importance of what Trump was ‘hoping’ for.

The “odd” and “uncomfortable” requests made to Coats and Rogers may indicate that they also got similar alone-time with Trump before getting asked—nicely, nicely—to get out there and tell America something that they, at the very least, didn’t know to be true.

Trump has said repeatedly that no collusion occurred. "After 7 months of investigations & committee hearings about my 'collusion with the Russians,' nobody has been able to show any proof. Sad!" he tweeted June 16. 

That’s right. There’s only proof that Micheal Flynn, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Jefferson Sessions, and Jared Kushner had illicit contact with the Russians. Trump just got hundreds of millions to sell Russians condos and buildings at inflated prices, probably as part of a money laundering scheme. Like the money laundering for which he paid a $10 million fine at his failing casino.

Nothing to see here.