US intelligence chiefs decline to discuss Trump contacts

Olive Rios
June 9, 2017

A Washington Post report Wednesday said in March, less than a week after the Senate confirmed Coats to oversee the 17 US intelligence agencies, Trump asked him to intervene with then-FBI Director James Comey to back off an investigation of Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, whom Trump fired after just 24 days on the job for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to Washington.

"Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI's role as an independent investigative agency", said the former director.

Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats demurred when asked whether it was true, as The Washington Post reported Tuesday, that Trump asked Coats if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get him to back off the bureau's focus on Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser. If any of the witnesses had stated "no" to the line of questioning - that Trump asked them to interfere with the Flynn probe - Trump would have gotten a major boost just one day before the Comey hearing.

The exchange suggested the president could use executive privilege to prevent certain information from being shared with a congressional investigation into any possible coordination between Russian Federation and Trump associates.

Coats declined to address a Washington Post report Tuesday that Trump urged him to ask FBI Director James Comey to back off the Russian Federation investigation.

That means it's still entirely possible that Trump did ask them to help shut down or slow an ongoing probe.

"After months of criticizing the government for allegedly spying on his presidential campaign, President Trump is now hypocritically endorsing a bill that would make permanent the NSA authority that is used to spy on Americans without a warrant", ACLU legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani said in a statement. The FBI and other US agencies said earlier this year Moscow interfered to help Trump win, but the poll said only 36 percent of those surveyed say they trust what Comey says about Russian Federation "a great deal" or "a good amount". It raises questions among legal experts of whether the president was attempting to obstruct justice. Coats discussed Trump's request with aides, but decided that intervening with Comey was inappropriate. At the time, Comey was overseeing the federal investigation into possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia's election meddling.

"Comey said he told Trump he was not "'reliable' in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth". "I replied only that 'he is a good guy'". This was a particularly shrewd move by Comey, since none of us knew whether the president* would wake up early Thursday morning screaming "Executive privilege!" and demanding a polonium-tipped umbrella.

Exasperated Senate Democrats lit into the four intelligence chiefs as they dodged their questions. He asked Rogers, "Why are you not answering these questions?" King asked McCabe, Mediate reports.

To refuse to answer the questions in a public hearing "just won't be enough", Warner said. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has declined to answer questions about this publicly.

After the hearing, Heinrich told the Journal the non-answers were frustrating, but also revealing.

"You can clear an terrible lot up by simply saying it never happened", Heinrich later said.

"If you've not had questions waived off with Mr. Mueller, I think frankly -- and I understand your commitment to the administration -- but Sen. It is frustrating because they have not invoked executive privilege and they have no legal basis". The section allows the government to collect digital communications of foreigners outside the United States that go through American phone or internet providers. John McCain and Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr both spoke up to tell her to give the witnesses a chance to answer her questions. He outraged Democrats by publicly characterizing the conclusions of the investigation, and angered Republicans by not pursuing a prosecution over the secret e-mail system and the serial mishandling of classified data, including at least dozens of instances of Top Secret-level and above information.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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