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Published: Sat, June 10, 2017
Culture | By Antonia Gonzales

Angus King: 'Ridiculous, Disappointing' Intel Chiefs Refused to Answer Questions

Angus King: 'Ridiculous, Disappointing' Intel Chiefs Refused to Answer Questions

The refusal by intelligence chiefs to discuss possible conversations with Trump will put even more of a spotlight on former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey when he appears before the same panel on Thursday to give his own much-awaited testimony. But unlike Comey, they refused to offer any details about their personal dealings with President Trump. NPR's congressional correspondent Scott Detrow is here.

KING: Good morning, Steve.

DETROW: Yeah, and the big question, though, is how much Trump himself joins into that criticism and whether he does it in real time during Comey's hearing.

But Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers told the Senate Intelligence Committee they would not discuss details of their White House meetings with Trump in recent months. Mark Warner of Virginia, also lauded the law.

Both Coats and National Security Agency chief Mike Rogers said they would not discuss any private conversations that they have had with Trump, refusing to answer several questions by Republicans and Democrats as the atmosphere in the hearing room grew increasingly tense. Rogers told the Senate committee he never felt pressured by the White House.

Rogers replied: "I have never been directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate".

- Coats and Rogers continued to stonewall the committee, and state that they feel it is inappropriate to answer.

ANGUS KING: Why are you not answering our questions?

"I'm not interested in repeating myself sir", Rogers said.

"What you feel isn't relevant, admiral", King shot back.

KING: Then why are you not answering?

They refused to answer questions about whether Trump asked them to intervene to curb the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

As a practical matter, of course, the invocation of any privilege would have underscored the impression that not only has the president tried to stifle the Russian Federation probe, but he's also attempting to cover up his behind-the-scenes maneuvering. We answer the critical questions about what today's news means for the future of the highest office in the nation.

HORSLEY: Coats suggested he might be willing to answer in a closed-door hearing without the television cameras rolling. "I don't think this is the appropriate venue to do this in".

HEINRICH: Mr. - it is a matter of unwillingness. And I would think that you can track through - this is James Comey's - the transcript of the testimony that he will deliver today, and it'll go into the record - into the official record.

"When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the president began by saying, 'I want to talk about Mike Flynn, '" Comey said in his testimony.

"I do likewise", Coats echoed. Marco Rubio said, in a particularly tense exchange.

However, neither would discuss their conversations with Trump, and declined to say if he asked them to take any action regarding the investigations. "The requirements of our oversight responsibilities and your agencies deserve it".

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe is also scheduled to testify.

"What's the basis?" King asked.

For argument's sake, let's say the definition of presidential communications privilege covers the reported conversations between Trump and the chiefs in which the president sought help in stopping the Russian Federation probe (which, again, is not to say such conversations would have been kosher).

S. KING: Well, that's another linkage that, you know, we're hearing some of the press and the public put that link in there together.

HORSLEY: McCabe ducked the question, noting that a special counsel has now been appointed to investigate such matters. Ethics guru Norman Eisen said that key in an obstruction prosecution would be whether Trump and others were "acting for an improper goal, such as to evade personal embarrassment or legal liability for Trump, for people connected to him, and possibly even for Russian wrongdoers".

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