Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Director of the National Security Agency Mike Rogers testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday morning. Senator Mark Warner was the first to ask Coats and Mike Rogers about Trump’s request to intervene and downplay FBI investigation.
Rogers refused to discuss details of the any conversation, but stated that he didn’t feel that he has been asked to do anything “illegal or immoral” or feel that he was “pressured.” Refused to answer whether such a conversation with Trump occurred.
Warner then asked Coats directly, saying that if the conversations didn’t happen he had a chance to lay them to rest. But Coats and Rogers refused to answer.
Coats: “I don’t believe it’s appropriate to address that in a public session. … I do not feel it is appropriate to address confidential information in a public session.”
Warner attempted to get Coats or Rogers to respond, offering them the chance to give any clear statement that such a conversation did or did not take place and warning that evidence on the subject was forthcoming.
Coats: “I don’t believe this is the appropriate venue. … ”
Warner: “There was a chance here to lay to rest some of these press reports. … At some points, these facts have to come out.”
Marco Rubio then asked simply
“Are you prepared to say that you’ve never been asked to interfere in an investigation at the FBI?”
Neither Coats nor Rogers would respond, with Coats mentioning that he’d talk to the Special Counsel.
Republicans on the committee were eager to call the matter closed by statements from Coats and Rogers that they had “not felt pressured” to engage in anything illegal. Republican Senator James Risch even called the matter “put to rest,” even though both Coats and Rogers refused to state whether or not a conversation even occurred.
Surprisingly, what Mike Rogers and Dan Coats “felt” is not the issue.
Despite overnight stories detailing Donald Trump’s attempts to recruit Coats into the effort to halt the FBI investigation by applying pressure to then director James Comey, and previous reports that Rogers had been asked to “downplay” the investigation, the subject of testimony was ongoing evaluation of laws applying to intelligence gathering. Coats devoted his opening statement to defending the tools provided by FISA, insisting that they are under ’rigorous supervision’ and recommending ‘permanent reauthorization.’ Coats endorsed similar requests made by former DNI James Clapper and insisted there had been no intentional violations in which FISA had been misused to spy on domestic targets.
Coats insistence that FISA has been properly used, and that the Section 702 procedures protect against the use of the system to collect information on a ‘US person,’ further degrade the insistent by Trump and his surrogates that President Obama had surveilled members of his campaign staff.