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Intelligence Leaders Contradict Washington Post Story, Testify Trump Never Pressured Them About Russia

From left: Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers are seated during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday. (ALEX BRANDON/AP)
ALEX BRANDON/AP
KRISTINA WONG

The director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and director of National Intelligence testified Wednesday in an open Senate hearing that they have never felt pressured to interfere with the ongoing Russia investigations, contrary to press reports.

“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 believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical, or inappropriate,” NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“To the best of my recollection during that same period of my service, I do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so,” he added.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats also said he has “never been pressured” by the president or anybody in the administration.

“In my time of service, which is interacting with the President of the United States or anybody in this administration, I have never been pressured, I have never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relationship to the ongoing investigation,” he said.

The Washington Post reported before the hearing on Wednesday morning that Coats told “associates” in March that President Trump had asked him if he could intervene with former FBI Director James Comey to get the FBI to back off its focus on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in an ongoing Russia probe.

Coats suggested the report was not accurate. “I guess I’ve been around town long enough to say, uh, not take everything at face value that’s printed in the Post. I’ve served on the committee here and often saw that the information that had been discussed had been reported, but that wasn’t always accurate,” he said.

The Post had also reported on May 22 that four anonymous officials — two current and two former — said Trump had asked Rogers and Coats to “help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government” and deny the existence of any evidence of collusion, and that both men thought the requests were inappropriate.

The new Post report gave Democrats on the committee new ammunition for their accusations that Trump had tried to intervene in the Russia probe and that there was a “pattern.”

Sen. Mark Warner argued, “We see this pattern, that without confirmation or denial, it appears that the president not once, not twice, but we will hear from Director Comey tomorrow, this pattern where the president seems to want to interfere or downplay or halt the ongoing investigation.”

Under pressure from Warner and others, neither Rogers nor Coats would discuss any specific conversations they have had with the president, citing the confidential nature of those conversations.

But Rogers said, “I stand by the comments that I made to you.”

Sen. James Risch (R-RI) said the two men had made it “substantially” clear that they had never been pressured by anyone and that the hearing should get back to discussing the purpose of the hearing — reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“I think you’ve all cleared up substantially your direct testimony that you have never been pressured by anyone, including the President of the United States to do something illegal or immoral or anything else. Thank you for that,” he said.

“Let’s go back to Section 702, which is what this hearing is supposed to be all about,” he said.

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