Both Coats and Rogers said they had contacted the White House to ask whether it meant to invoke executive privilege regarding the president's conversations with them, which could prevent the intelligence chiefs from testifying about them. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, at the opening of Wednesday's hearing to hear testimony from top officials of the Justice Department and the government's top intelligence agencies.
Angus King (I-Me) pressed Coats and Rogers on their refusal to discuss their conversations with Trump about the Russian Federation investigation.
KING: Then why are you not answering the questions?
Rogers again said "I've never been directed" to do something "I felt to be inappropriate".
The nation's top intelligence chiefs were supposed to spend Wednesday talking about foreign surveillance, but were instead grilled for more than two hours by senators angry at stonewalling over questions about President Donald Trump's influence in the Russian Federation probe.
"I think your unwillingness to answer a very basic question speaks volumes", said Sen.
The president then started complaining about the FBI investigation and Comey's handling of it, said officials familiar with the account Coats gave to associates.
Kasowitz labeled Comey "one of these leakers" who are "actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications".
ROGERS: I stand by the comments I've made.
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"I mean, it's detailed, as you know from reading the story, when you met, what you discussed, et cetera, et cetera".
The Washington Post reported on May 22 that Trump had asked the officials to help push back against the FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and Moscow, citing current and former officials. Coats, who was preparing for his confirmation hearing, felt blindsided, officials said.
In stunning public testimony Thursday, James B. Comey acknowledged arranging for a friend to leak details of a conversation Comey had with President Trump - the February 14 Oval Office encounter in which Trump said he hoped the FBI director could "drop" the bureau's investigation of fired national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to Comey's contemporaneous notes.
What do you do if you've just been fired as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the administration has chosen to "defame" you with "lies plain and simple", and you believe the president of the United States may be trying to obstruct justice?
"Is that the rule for the President of the United States as well?" Even mild-spoken Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, got testy.
Rogers refused to expand, standing by his initial comments in the hearing. When asked if he knew that was the case, he responded with answers that did not directly address the question.
"The bigger issue that's getting lost in all of this is what the Russians did, and what they're going to do next time", said King. The intelligence chiefs indicated they would be more comfortable speaking in a closed environment and Burr suggested during the hearing that he would schedule time for the four men to return for a closed session.
"I'm not satisfied with, 'I do not believe it is inappropriate, ' or, 'I do not feel I should answer.' I want to understand a legal basis".
I do not feel it is appropriate for me in a public session to breach confidential conversations between the president and myself in a public session.