Today’s warm up to Thursday’s scheduled Senate testimony by former FBI Director James Comey turned out to be mostly lukewarm.
Adm. Mike Rogers, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, and former Sen. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told senators that they’ve never felt pressure to downplay or push the FBI to end its investigation of possible collusion between President Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian cyber hackers.
“I have never been pressured, I have never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relationship to an ongoing investigation,” Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“I have never been directed to do anything I believed 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,” Rogers declared.
But neither Rogers nor Coats would answer appeals by Sen. Mark Warner, the committee’s ranking Democrat, for details of their conversations with the president. Did the president ask or suggest they intercede to stop the FBI inquiry, Warner wanted to know, even if they never actually felt pressure to do so?
Rogers was adamant that he will not divulge the details of private conversations with Trump. Pushed by several senators, Coats suggested he’s willing to provide details in a senators-only, closed-to-the-public hearing. “I do not share with the general public, conversations I have with the president,” he asserted.
The exchanges left Republican and Democratic senators alike unhappy and leave the country in the dark about the accuracy of press reports that President Trump tried to shut down the Russia investigation. “I come out of this hearing with more questions that I had when I came in,” Warner said.
Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, observed that it’s a bit “Orwellian” to read details in the morning newspaper of Trump’s efforts to persuade Coats to help in closing the investigation but find Coats unwilling to discuss his conversations with the president in a Senate hearing. "You have my sympathy," he told Coats
The committee’s GOP majority generally seemed pleased at testimony from both men that they had never felt pressure from Trump or others at the White House to drop the Russia investigation. But several Republicans and all the Democrats were frustrated by refusals from Rogers, Coats, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Acting FBI chief Andrew McCabe to provide direct accounts of their conversations with Trump or Comey.
Sen. Angus King, I-ME, zeroed in on press reports that Comey had confided to McCabe that the president asked him to call off the Russia investigation. That discussion is not classified, he observed, so what is McCabe’s legal justification for refusing to share the details? he demanded.
McCabe and Rosenstein said they’re constrained by the fact that the Russia probe is continuing, though Rosenstein acknowledged that the White House has not invoked executive privilege and Robert Mueller, who is now directing the criminal investigation, has not tried to limit their cooperation with the parallel congressional investigations.
“I’m not gonna comment on conversations the director may have had with the president,” McCabe said. “I know he’s here to testify in front of you tomorrow. You’ll have an opportunity to ask him then.”
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections