Warner freely admitted he was disappointed with the answers, arguing “we also have to weigh in here the public’s absolute need to know” whether Trump tried to interfere, downplay or halt Russian election tampering investigations.
Warner argued that they had the chance to “lay to rest press reports” that Trump did ask them to intervene or downplay. “If he is even asked, that is a relevant piece of information.”
“At some point these facts have to come out.”
Things got pretty testy during the hearing; at one point exasperated senators asked the stonewalling intel honchos if Trump had invoked executive privilege in re the hearing. Speaking of stonewalling, Coats and Rogers said it was inappropriate to respond. Coats did, however, concede he was “not sure I have a legal basis” to dance around the questions in re whether Trump asked him to put his thumb on the Russia probe.
Coats, Rogers, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appeared before the committee to testify about re-authorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which enables digital surveillance of foreign nationals who are overseas. It’s set to expire at the end of the year unless reauthorized by Congress.
But Warner, in his opening remarks, had assured viewers he would ask the three men about their Trump interactions, with a view to unearthing any possible attempts to interfere with the probe of Russia election rannygazoo.
WaPo reported Tuesday evening that Trump had complained to Coats about the FBI investigation two days after Comey confirmed to Congress the FBI was investigating possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
“It shows what kind of Orwellian existence we live in,” Sen. John McCain remarked of the extremely detailed WaPo report.
Telling Coats he understands his refusal to discuss conversations with Trump at the hearing, “yet in this public hearing we can’t talk about what is described in detail in this morning’s Washington Post,” McCain asked Coats, “Do you want to comment?”
“Are you asking me to comment on the integrity of Washington Post reporting?” Coats asked. He said he had told WaPo, when contacted during reporting for the article, that he did not want to comment publicly about conversations with the President of the United States because “most of them were intelligence-related and classified.”
McCain described as “more than disturbing” if WaPo is accurate in its report Trump told Coats to tell Comey to back off the Russia probe. Rosenstein at least committed to saying at the hearing that “anyone who seeks to obstruct a federal investigation will be investigated,” though his remark did little to improve the mood in the hall.
The intel honchos are appearing before the committee one day before sacked FBI Director James Comey is scheduled to do same, where he’s sure to be asked whether he did, as Trump has claimed, assure POTUS three times he was not under investigation in the bureau’s Russia probe and whether he wrote a memo after a meeting with Trump due to concerns about the conversation, among other questions. Trump last month told NBC News’ Lester Holt he was okay sacking Comey while the FBI was investigating his campaign because Democrats made up the “Russia thing.”
Meanwhile, Trump very early Wednesday morning announced his pick to replace Comey:
Wray is maybe best known these days as Chris Christie’s lawyer during Bridgegate scandal. Previously, he was Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division when George W. Bush was POTUS.