Today President Trump’s Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers ducked, dodged, and flat out refused to answer any question from the Senate Intelligence Committee about the Russia investigation, denying the American people transparency and accountability.
Their embarrassing performance does not appear to be based on legal restrictions or a request from the special counsel, rather they simply opted to protect the president who appointed them and put politics first.
Today’s hearing makes clear the need for an independent commission outside of the influence of the Republican Congress and the Trump administration.
Director Dan Coats admits he’s not sure he can legally refuse to answer questions.
KING: I want to understand the legal basis. You swore that oath to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and today you are refusing to do so. What is the legal basis for your refusal to testify to this committee?
COATS: I’m not sure I have a legal basis.
Director Dan Coats said it would be inappropriate to confirm a conversation with President Trump occurred.
HEINRICH: 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. I don’t care how you felt. I’m not asking whether you felt pressured. I’m simply asking did that conversation occur.
COATS: And once again, Senator, I will say that I do believe it is inappropriate for me to discuss that in an open session.
HEINRICH: You realize, and obviously this is not releasing any classified information, but you realize how simple it would simply be to say “no, that never happened.” Why is it inappropriate, Director Coats?
COATS: I think conversations between the president and myself are for the most part –
HEINRICH: You seem to apply that standard selectively.
COATS: No, I’m not applying it selectively. I’m just saying I don’t think it’s appropriate –
HEINRICH: You could clear an awful lot up by simply saying it never happened.
COATS: I don’t share, I do not share with the general public conservations that I have with the president or many of my colleagues within the administration that I believe should not be shared.
HEINRICH: Well, I think your unwillingness to answer a very basic question speaks volumes.
COATS: It’s not a matter of unwillingness.
HEINRICH: It is a matter of unwillingness.
COATS: It’s a matter of how I share it and with whom I share it to. And when there are ongoing investigations, I think it’s inappropriate to divulge that.
HEINRICH: So you don’t think the American people deserve to know the answer to that question?
COATS: I think the investigations will determine that.
Admiral Mike Rogers admits he won’t answer questions that he “feels” are inappropriate even though he is not restricted by executive privilege.
KING: On the record I would like a legal justification for your refusal to answer the question today because I think it’s a straightforward question, it’s not involving discussions with the President, it’s involving discussions with Mr. Comey. The gentlemen, Mr. – Director Coats and Admiral Rogers, I think you testified, Admiral Rogers, that you did discuss today’s testimony with someone in the White House?
ROGERS: I said I asked did the White House intend to invoke executive privileges associated with any interaction between myself and the President of the United States.
KING: And what was the answer to that question?
ROGERS: To be honest, I didn’t get a definitive answer and both myself and the DNI are still talking to the White House General Counsel.
KING: Then I’ll ask both of you the same question. Why are you not answering these questions? Is there an invocation by the President of the United States of executive privilege? Is there or not?
ROGERS: Not that I am aware of.
KING: Then why are you not answering our questions?
ROGERS: Because I feel that it is inappropriate, Senator.
KING: What you feel isn’t relevant, Admiral. What you feel isn’t the answer.
ROGERS: I stand accountable –
KING: The answer is why are you not answering the questions? Is it an invocation of executive privilege? If there is, then let’s know about it. If there isn’t, answer the question.
ROGERS: I stand by the comments that I’ve made. I’m not interested in repeating myself, sir.
Director Dan Coats and Admiral Mike Rogers won’t even commit to answering questions in a closed setting.
KING: When you are before this committee in a closed session, you will answer these questions directly and unequivocally and without hesitation?
COATS: I plan to do that, but I do have to work through the legal counsel at the White House relative to whether or not they are going to exercise executive…
KING: Admiral Rogers, will you answer these questions in a closed session?
ROGERS: I likewise respond as the DNI has. I certainly hope that that is what happens. I believe that’s the appropriate thing. But I do have to acknowledge, because of the sensitive nature and the executive privilege aspects of this, I need to be talking to the General Counsel in the White House. I hope we come to a position where we can have this dialogue. I welcome that dialogue, sir.
KING: I hope so, too. And I would just add in conclusion that both of you testified you had never been pressured under three years. I would argue that you have waived executive privilege by in effect testifying as to something that didn’t happen. And I believe you opened the door to these questions. And it is my belief that you are inappropriately refusing to answer these questions today.
Published: Jun 7, 2017