US lawmakers to press intel chiefs on Russia ahead of Comey hearing

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, asked Coats and Rogers whether they would commit to answer questions about their conversations with Trump during a closed session with the committee.

On March 22, less than a week after being confirmed by the Senate, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attended a briefing at the White House with officials from several government agencies.

Those questions did not get far.

Do you ever have any question about anything you wish to ask and get answer?

Coats and Rogers said they would have to talk to the White House counsel's office to ensure that the president will not invoke executive privilege to bar their testimony.

It's been reported that Trump asked Rogers to publicly state that there is no evidence that there was collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

"Comey said he told Trump he was not "'reliable' in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth".

The hearings Wednesday and Thursday are significant because stories about the Russian Federation investigation have dribbled out piecemeal, often based on anonymous sources.

The Senate intelligence committee is back in the national spotlight for two days of blockbuster hearings and following news that relations between President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had reached a boiling point surrounding his recusal from the Justice Department's Russian Federation investigation.

"Not that I'm aware of -- because I feel it's inappropriate", Rogers said.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked Coats about a Washington Post story published Wednesday that said Coats had told his associates in March that Trump had asked him if he could intervene with Comey, who then was still the Federal Bureau of Investigation director, to get the Federal Bureau of Investigation to back off its focus on Flynn. Comey appears before the same committee on Thursday.

"That was an attack on American institutions", Democratic Sen. He went on to undermine his argument by implying that it probably would be possible, but that he chooses not to allocate resources to the task when the intelligence community could be focusing on imminent concerns in countries like Iran and North Korea.

"They are deeply, deeply grateful to us for the information derived from 702 has saved, what they said, literally hundreds of lives", said Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who took over after Comey was sacked, will also be at the hearing. "Any attempt by the White House or even the President himself to exploit this community as a tool for political purposes is deeply, deeply troubling".

Trump on Wednesday said he meant to nominate a former Justice Department official, Christopher Wray, to replace Comey as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The latest report adds to questions of whether Trump interfered in the Russian Federation investigation, just one day before Comey is set to testify on Trump's request of him that he end his investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

  • Larry Hoffman