A Senate Intelligence Committee hearing quickly grew heated on Wednesday as senators questioned US intelligence chiefs about their conversations with President Donald Trump, particularly those relating to an ongoing FBI investigation into the president’s and his associates’ ties to Russia.
In one exchange, Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats whether he could deny that Trump asked him to downplay the investigation.
“Director Coats, you’ve said as well that it would be inappropriate to answer a simple question about whether the president asked for your assistance in blunting the Russia investigation,” Heinrich said. “I don’t care how you felt. I’m not asking whether you felt pressured, I’m simply asking: did that conversation occur?”
“Once again, senator, I will say that I do believe it’s inappropriate for me to discuss that in an open session,” he said.
Heinrich replied: “You realise — and obviously this is not releasing any classified information — you realise how simple it would simply be to say, no, that never happened.” He then asked why Coats felt it was inappropriate to answer the inquiry.
“I think conversations between the president and myself are, for the most part — ” Coats began, before Heinrich cut him off.
“You seem to apply that standard selectively,” Heinrich said.
Coats replied that he was not applying selective standards and reiterated his belief that it would be inappropriate for him to discuss conversations between himself and Trump
“You could clear an awful lot up by simply saying it never happened,” Heinrich said.
Coats responded that he doesn’t share “with the general public” conversations that he has with the president or his colleagues within the administration that he thinks shouldn’t be shared.
Heinrich said that Coats’ unwillingness to answer “a very basic question” spoke “volumes.” When Coats again began to say that he did not feel it was appropriate to share details of his conversations, Heinrich said, “So, you don’t think the American people deserve to know the answer to that question?”
Coats replied that he thinks “the investigations will determine that.”
Before questioning Coats, Heinrich also questioned Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the role Attorney General Jeff Sessions played in Comey’s firing.
When Rosenstein refused to comment, Heinrich replied, “At this point, you’ve filibustered better than most of my colleagues.”
The intelligence chiefs’ appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee comes on the heels of a number of news reports alleging that Trump asked top officials to publicly deny collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, or to intervene in the FBI’s Russia probe.
Watch Heinrich’s and Coats’ exchange below:
This is an important exchange btwn DNI Coats and Sen. Heinrich on Coats’ refusal to share details of discussions with Trump. (via @MSNBC) pic.twitter.com/vzxAiJQjum
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 7, 2017
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