DNI, NSA Director: No 'Pressure' Felt From Trump, But No Comment on His Reported Requests
WASHINGTON -- Saying they did not feel pressured in any instance by the administration, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers refused to answer questions today about whether President Trump did or did not ask them to intervene in the Russia investigation.
The Washington Post reported last month that Trump "made separate appeals" in March to Coats and Rogers "urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election"; the paper said both refused.
On Tuesday evening, the Post reported that Coats told associates that Trump asked Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo if they could get then-FBI Director James Comey to back off from their focus on former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn in the Bureau's probe into Russia's campaign influence operation.
At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing today, Vice-Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) asked Coats to "set the record straight about what happened or didn't happen."
"I don't believe it's appropriate for me to address that in a public session," Coats replied.
The DNI later referred back to the statement his spokesman gave the Post: “Director Coats does not discuss his private conversations with the President. However, he has never felt pressured by the President or anyone else in the Administration to influence any intelligence matters or ongoing investigations.”
"I've never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way and shape -- with shaping intelligence in a political way, or in relationship to an ongoing investigation," Coats told the committee.
"There was a chance here to lay to rest some of these press reports," Warner replied. "If the president is asking you to intervene or downplay -- you may not have felt pressure, but if he's even asking, to me, that is a very relevant piece of information."
Rogers told senators that he was "not going to discuss the specifics of any interaction or conversations... I may or may not have had with the president of the United States."
"In the three-plus years that I have been the 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," Rogers said. "And to the best of my recollection, during that same period of service, I do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so."
Every time the NSA director was asked if a conversation about the Russia probe occurred with Trump, Rogers did not directly answer the question and referred back to his blanket statement.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) pressed the witnesses on whether they had "been asked by the president or the White House to influence an ongoing investigation."
"Well, Senator, I just hate to keep repeating this, but I'm going to do it," Coats replied. "I am willing to come before the committee and tell you what I know and what I don't know. What I'm not willing to do is to share what I think is confidential information that ought to be protected in an open hearing. And so I'm not prepared to answer your question today."