Two US intel chiefs say were never pressured by White House
- Author: Larry Hoffman Jun 10, 2017,
Jun 10, 2017, 14:33
Coats said he had never felt "pressured" to shape intelligence "in a political way", but when pressed on his communications with Trump and the question of whether the president had asked him to step in to influence the investigation, he said he would not respond in a public hearing, saying it was not "an appropriate venue".
In an often contentious hearing on Capitol Hill, two intelligence chiefs testified Wednesday that they've never felt pressured to take improper actions regarding intelligence matters, including the investigation of Russia's meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election.
"I have never been pressured or never felt pressured to intervene in any way...in any ongoing investigation", Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told a Senate Intelligence Committee probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
White House officials had weighed trying to block Comey from testifying by arguing that his discussions with the president pertained to national security and that there was an expectation of privacy.
So why wouldn't the intel leaders talk to the Senate Intelligence committee today? John McCain (R-AZ) seemed to echo the frustration that many of his Senate colleagues had already expressed regarding the intel chiefs' refusal to answer questions.
Rogers at the hearing Wednesday said he's never been asked to do anything illegal or felt pressure to do anything immoral during his three years as head of the intelligence agency. "Coats discussed the conversation with other officials and decided that intervening with Comey as Trump had suggested would be inappropriate".
"I don't believe it's appropriate for me to address that in a public session", DNI Coats told Sen.
". Because if you have not had questions waved off with Mr. Mueller, I think, frankly - and I understand your commitment to the administration - but Sen".
McCabe said it would be inappropriate to discuss issues that might end up being part of the special counsel's investigation into Russian activities during the election.
Coats reportedly told associates in March that Trump had attempted to enlist him in efforts to push back against the investigation of disgraced national security adviser Mike Flynn. He is expected to testify about those conversations Thursday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
"Director Coats does not discuss his private conversations with the President", he said. "... I am more than willing to sit before this committee ... in a closed session and answer your questions", he said.
Coats gave the same non-answer, almost verbatim, which makes one wonder whether they were coached and/or colluded on their testimony. He said the lawmakers will likely try to flesh out Trump's actions.
"I have never been pressured".
Pressing further, King asked Coats and Rogers to explain the basis for their refusal to answer questions about their alleged conversations with Trump, which they implied were classified but are not.
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.