U.S. spy chiefs refuse to disclose talks with Trump

Angie Massey
June 11, 2017

Coats refused to confirm or deny Tuesday's explosive Washington Post report that cited United States officials saying Trump had asked Coats if he could lean on then-FBI director James Comey and urge him to ease the part of the Russian Federation probe that focused on sacked national security advisor Michael Flynn.

Coats quickly faced questions about a new Washington Post report saying that Trump in March, less than a week after the Senate confirmed Coats to oversee the 17 USA intelligence agencies, asked him to intervene with then-FBI director Comey to back off the investigation of Flynn, who had campaigned for Trump but held the key White House security post for just 24 days.

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, echoed Rogers in his initial response, saying he "never felt pressured" to intervene in an ongoing investigation.

Sen Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the two intelligence officials owed the public an account of their dealings with Trump and his aides. He said he left the hearing "with more questions than when I went in".

On Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe noted that they had never been asked to intervene in an ongoing investigation.

The veteran Republican John McCain said it was "Orwellian" that it was possible it read in the Washington Post about extraordinary pressure on intelligence chiefs from the president, which McCain said was "more than disturbing if true", but not to get clear answers in a formal Senate hearing.

But neither Coats nor Rogers addressed that report, which led to some tense moments at the hearing. And Trump had a handful of sympathetic Republican senators on the panel, including Arkansas Sen. "I am willing to come before the committee and tell you what I know and what I don't know". New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich argued if the president did not ask officials to rein in the investigation, it ought to be easy to say so.

Comey is said to have written a memo on February 14 claiming that Trump asked him in a face-to-face Oval Office meeting to back off of an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

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White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it's standard practice for executive branch officials, such as the ones who testified, to decline to discuss conversations with the president. He said he does not know, however, whether special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Trump now - and left little doubt that he hopes Mueller is doing just that.

What do you do if you've just been fired as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the administration has chosen to "defame" you with "lies plain and simple", and you believe the president of the United States may be trying to obstruct justice?

Testifying with Trump administration colleagues Wednesday to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Coats read aloud from his written testimony about "herculean" efforts made by the National Security Agency. "Why are you not answering these questions?"

King then asked Coats and Rogers whether they would commit to answering the questions in a closed session. But senators also want to know what he was telling the intelligence officials in private discussions. Rogers said he was yet to receive a definitive answer.

King blasted Rogers, saying if there is no invocation of executive privilege, "Why are you not answering these questions".

"You're asking me... [to] comment on the integrity of the Washington Post's reporting?"

"If you've not had questions waived off with Mr. Mueller, I think frankly -- and I understand your commitment to the administration -- but Sen".

Other reports by GizPress

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