Intel chiefs won't say if Trump asked them to intervene in investigations

Rogers and Coats testified on Capitol Hill today.

June 7, 2017, 3:02 PM

— -- Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appeared today before the Senate Intelligence Committee for a hearing on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

But questions from the panel turned to former FBI Director James Comey, the FBI's investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election and whether President Trump asked two top intelligence officials to intervene in the investigation.

Here are five notable exchanges from today's hearing:

Rogers, Coats won't comment on whether Trump asked them to intervene in FBI's Russia investigation

National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said they would not discuss the specifics of their conversations with President Trump and whether they were approached by the president to intervene in the FBI's Russia investigation.

"I don't believe it's appropriate for me to address that in a public session," Coats said in response to questioning by the committee's ranking Democratic member Mark Warner, D-Va.

Rogers said he would also not comment on the conversations he may or may not have had with President Trump.

Rogers, Coats said they never felt pressure to intervene in any ongoing investigations

Rogers testified, "In the three-plus years that I have been director of the National Security Agency, to the best of my recollection, 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."

"I understand your answer. I'm disappointed with your answer," Warner said in response to Rogers, later adding, "I hope you will understand the enormous need for the American public to know."

Coats told Warner that he “never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way” in an ongoing investigation.

Coats' exchange with Sen. King

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, asked Coats, "What is the legal basis for your refusal to testify to this committee?"

"I’m not sure that I have a legal basis," Coats said.

Coats continued, "But I am more than willing to sit before this committee during its investigative process in a closed session and answer your questions."

Coats and Rogers said they did not get a definite answer from the White House as to whether it intended to invoke executive privilege to prevent them from answering questions during today's hearing.

Sen. Harris grills Rosenstein on Mueller's independence

Sen. Kamala Harris pressed Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein on whether special counsel Robert Mueller has full independence to conduct his separate investigation into Russian interference.

Harris asked Rosenstein if he would put in writing that Mueller would have the authority to be "fully independent."

Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any election-related investigations, Rosenstein is overseeing the Russia probe.

"Although it's theoretically true that there are circumstances where he could be removed by the acting Attorney General for this case ... your assurance of his independence is Robert Mueller's integrity and Andy McCabe's integrity and my integrity," Rosenstein said.

When asked again by Harris, Rosenstein later added that Mueller "has the full independence as authorized by the regulations."

He went on, "I am confident senator, that Director Mueller, Mr. McCabe and I and anybody else who may fill those positions in the future will protect the integrity of that investigation. That's my commitment to you and that's the guarantee you and the American people have."

McCabe won't comment on Comey

"Did Director Comey ever share details of his conversations with the president with you? In particular, did Director Comey say that the president had asked for his loyalty?" Sen. Martin Henrich, D-N.M., asked McCabe.

McCabe replied that he's not going to comment on any potential conversations Comey may have had with President Trump.

"I know he's here to testify in front of you tomorrow, and you'll have the opportunity to ask him that," McCabe said.

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