Two US intel chiefs say were never pressured by White House

2017-06-07 20:49
National Intelligence Director Dan Coats gives his statement during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. (Alex Brandon, AP)

National Intelligence Director Dan Coats gives his statement during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. (Alex Brandon, AP)

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Washington - Two US intelligence leaders told Congress on Wednesday they were never pressured by the White House, as they were grilled on reports that President Donald Trump urged them to downplay probes into an aide's Russia ties.

"I have never been pressured, I've never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relationship to an ongoing investigation," Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a highly anticipated public hearing.

Both Coats and National Security Agency chief Mike Rogers said they would not discuss any private conversations that they have had with Trump, refusing to answer several questions by Republicans and Democrats as the atmosphere in the hearing room grew increasingly tense.

"I am not going to discuss the specifics of any interactions or conversations... that I have had with the president," Rogers said, when probed by top Democrat Mark Warner.

"But I will make the following comment. 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," he added.

"And to the best of my recollection during that same period of service I do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so."

Coats refused to confirm or deny Tuesday's explosive Washington Post report that cited US officials saying Trump had asked Coats if he could lean on then-FBI director James Comey and urge him to ease the part of the Russia probe that focused on sacked national security advisor Michael Flynn.

"I am not asking for classified information, I am asking whether or not you have been asked by anyone to influence an ongoing investigation," Republican Senator Marco Rubio said, in a particularly tense exchange.

"I understand. I am not going to go down that road in a public forum," Coats responded.

Defiant

While Coats, a former US senator familiar with the chamber's traditions of collegial courtesy, appeared visibly unnerved by some of the questioning, Rogers was more defiant.

"I'm not going to comment on any interactions with the President," he said, repeating various versions of that refusal several times.

Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, who has filled in since Trump fired Comey on May 9, also refused to answer whether he had discussed the firing with Comey himself, saying the issue stepped into the "lane" of the special counsel who has been appointed to investigate the Trump team's possible collusion with Russia.

"I don't understand why the special counsel's lane takes precedence over the lane of the United States Congress," Senator Angus King fumed.

Read more on:    fbi  |  donald trump  |  russia  |  us

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