Intelligence Heads Say No Pressure From Trump on Russia Probe

Warner then asked Coats directly, saying that if the conversations didn't happen he had a chance to lay them to rest.

Mike Rogers, right, seated next to Dan Coats.

At the Wednesday hearing, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers also is expected to face questions about whether he faced pressure from Trump to rebut the stories about potential collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials.

"I'm not prepared to answer your question today", said Coats. "They have made extensive efforts". And Rosenstein, he's the deputy attorney general. "Her-cyoo-LEE-an", he coached. Heinrich said it would be simple for Coats to just deny it occurred.

Here's what's really herculean: being a Trump aide and trying not to implicate the boss even though it is patently obvious that he attempted to restrict the FBI's Russian Federation probe. And of course, now-fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director James B. Comey is testifying to the Senate on Thursday about his conversations with Trump on all this.

Rogers continued: "I have also answered that those conversations were classified".

The hearing Wednesday came amid persistent reports that Trump asked Coats, Rogers, Comey and possibly other top intelligence and justice officials to help shield former national security advisor Michael Flynn, which potentially could lead to obstruction of justice charges against the United States president.

Heinrich reminded McCabe that he was being asked about his conversations with Comey, not the president. But Coats and Rogers refused to answer.

5. Will the White House exercise executive privilege?

Yesterday, the same committee asked intelligence agency chiefs about their talks with the president. He demanded to know what legal basis justified Coats' refusal to answer questions.

INSKEEP: That's Senator Angus King of Maine.

"I do not share with the general public conversations that I have with the President or many of my colleagues within the administration that I believe should not be shared", Coats repeated. His exchange with King was even worse.

Heinrich: You don't think the American people deserve the answer to that question?

"We are in a public session here, and I do not feel that it is appropriate for me to address confidential information".

KING: What you feel isn't relevant, admiral. Is it an invocation of executive privilege? "If there is, let's know about it. If there isn't, answer the questions".

MICHAEL ROGERS: Not that I'm aware of. "I'm not interested in repeating myself". "And I don't mean that in a contentious way".

Two weeks before Trump was inaugurated, Comey drew the short straw and was designated by the Director of National Intelligence to brief Trump on the unverified contents of a dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent that alleged that the Russian government had always been cultivating Trump as an asset. By contrast, the other four left the impression that speaking the truth would infuriate their boss.

INSKEEP: But I'm thinking if they're saying to you, no one ever directed me.

Rogers replied he could not discuss specifics, but said that in his three-plus years as NSA director, he had never felt "pressured" to intervene in, or alter, the course of an investigation.

That wasn't the question.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) tried a different approach: Did anybody have notes on Trump's interactions regarding the Russian Federation probe?

COATS: I think the investigations will determine that.

Why is this not surprising?

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia asked if they could show up in the SCIF, the secure facility for classified hearings, but Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr said that was not an option. There was widespread consensus that the officials were shielding Trump, and clumsily. Sen.

Coats allowed that he did not have a "legal basis" to keep silent, promising to provide as much information behind closed doors as he was able but insisting that it wasn't appropriate to discuss his conversations with the president in an open forum.

At least that's easier to pronounce than "herculean".

  • Larry Hoffman