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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Top intelligence officials dodge questions about Trump interactions

Top intelligence officials dodge questions about Trump interactions
By Katie Bo Williams - 06-07-17 11:29 AM EDT

Two top intelligence officials on Wednesday denied feeling pressured by President Trump to intervene in the handling of intelligence in any inappropriate way - but refused to answer specific questions about their interactions with the president.

"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 believed to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate," NSA head Adm. Michael Rogers told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"I do not recall ever feeling pressure to do so," he insisted.

During a tense exchange with the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), Rogers declined to discuss the specifics of his interactions with the president.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a former Republican senator, similarly refused to address his conversations with the president, calling a public hearing an "inappropriate forum" for the discussion.

"I'm willing to come before the committee and tell you what I know and don't know," he said. "What I'm not willing to do is share information I think ought to be protected in an opening hearing."

But he made a similar statement as Rogers: "In my time of service, I have never been pressured, I have never felt pressured to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way."

Their answers did not satisfy Warner - or Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who also repeatedly pushed Rogers and Coats on whether they were asked to influence an ongoing investigation.

The two officials similarly declined to respond to Rubio's questions.

Wednesday's hearing, ostensibly on an expiring foreign surveillance law, quickly turned into a grilling on a Tuesday report from The Washington Post that Trump had asked Coats to intervene with then-FBI Director James Comey to curtail the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.

"You may not have felt pressured but if he's even asking, to me that is a very relevant piece of information," Warner said. "At some point these facts have to come out."

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