Senate Intel Committee: Coats and Rogers refuse to say if Trump asked them to sway Russia probe

Wednesday morning, before the Senate Intelligence Committee, NSA Director Mike Rogers and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats baffled lawmakers who were looking for answers as to if the President of the United States tried to obstruct the investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election. The other question was if the President asked his National Security Director or the Director of National Intelligence to downplay the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Michael Flynn and the idea of collusion between Russia and the Trump administration.

Problem is, the question was asked repeatedly by Senators, and yet, Rogers and Coats refused to say at if President Trump asked them to downplay the investigation to the press at the public hearing. Rogers answered by stating that, “”In the three-plus years that I have been director of the National Security Agency, I have never been directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate and to the best of my recollection during that same period of service I do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so.” Yet when asked the question did the President ask you, in any way, to interfere in or throw cold water on ex-FBI Director James Comey’s probe on Russia, he refused to answer.

Coats, echoed Rogers’ point stating that “I have never felt pressured to interfere or intervene in shaping intelligence in any way,” he said. Yet neither men would answer the direct question of Trump interfering. “I don’t believe it’s appropriate for me to address that in a public session,” Coats said. Rogers also refused to comment. “I’m not going to discuss the specifics of discussions with the president of the United States,” he said.

Members of the Senate became agitated and frustrated with the answers from the two directors and asking the same questions to FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe and Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who also declined to answer as there is now a Special Counsel handling the Russian investigation. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) clearly showed frustration trying to get an answer as to whether the President wanted to intervene in the Russia investigation. “Why are you not answering these questions? Is there an invocation of executive privilege?” King demanded. “I’m not satisfied with, ‘I do not believe it’s appropriate’ or ‘I do not believe I should answer.’” Executive privilege would not be a reason not to answer as the directors admitted they would tell the Senate panel in private what the President discussed with them.

“I’m willing to come before the committee and tell you what I know and don’t know,” Coats said. “What I’m not willing to do is share information I think I ought to be protected in an opening hearing.” Senator Martin Heinrich, (D-N.M) shared the committee’s frustration telling the directors, “Your unwillingness to answer a basic question speaks volumes.” Coats indicated his concerns about discussing his conversations with Trump were due to special counsel Mueller’s investigation. “When there’s an ongoing investigation, I think it’s inappropriate,” Coats said.

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