Intelligence Chiefs Won't Discuss Private Conversations With Trump In Open Hearing

Mark R. Warner, D-Va., the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, indicated Wednesday that he plans to question a witness to Coats's conversation with the president. On Tuesday night, The Post reported that Coats told associates in March that Trump asked him to try to persuade Comey to back off the FBI's investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn's ties to Russian Federation.

MIKE ROGERS: I have never been directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate.

To refuse to answer the questions in a public hearing "just won't be enough", Warner said.

"In my time of service", Coats said, "I have never been pressured, I've never felt pressure to intervene or interfere, in any way, with shaping intelligence in a political way".

Warner got an even more forceful denial from National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, who also initially declined to comment, saying, "I'm not going to discuss the specifics of any conversations with the president of the United States". King stayed on him until it was clear that he wasn't going to answer anything, and then King turned his attention to Roger and Coats.

Mueller had gone so far as to meet with Justice Department leaders and White House officials about the Federal Bureau of Investigation job, which opened after President Trump fired Director James Comey in a surprise May 9.

But the hearing quickly moved to the witnesses' interactions with Trump, after the Washington Post had reported the night before the hearing that Trump asked Coats to convince Comey to end the Russian Federation investigation.

He also mentioned that there was more information received in the close door hearing pertinent to the investigation but would not elaborate.

Maybe you didn't feel pressure, but were you asked the question?

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"Not that I'm aware of", Rogers replied. "The question is why are you not answering the question?" "I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel", Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee about his orchestrated leak.

King then tried the same line of questioning with Coats, asking: "What is the legal basis for your refusal to testify to this committee?"

HORSLEY: But when senators pressed the intelligence officials on whether Trump had asked them to intervene, Rogers and Coats repeatedly brushed them off. Rogers' refusal drew an angry rebuke from Maine Senator Angus King. He asked Rogers, "Why are you not answering these questions?"

Trump's surrogates may have said earlier this week that the President will not block Comey from testifying by claiming executive privilege.

"I'm not satisfied with, 'I do not believe it is inappropriate, ' or, 'I do not feel I should answer.' I want to understand a legal basis". The Democrats' questions tended to be somewhat more accusatory toward the president, the Republicans' questions somewhat more exculpatory, but there was a welcome air of sobriety about the whole thing.

King was in full fuss-fight mode and shot back, equally snarky: "Well, I do mean it in a contentious way".

"Sir, I stand by my previous comments", Rogers responded.

"I don't think this is the appropriate venue to do this in, given that this is an open hearing, and a lot of confidential information relative to intelligence or other matters - I just don't feel it's appropriate for me to do that in this situation". "We have seen reports that the president asked at least two of the leaders of our nation's intelligence agencies to publicly downplay the Russian Federation investigation".


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