Friday, September 24, 2021

US intel chief appears before Senate, says he felt no pressure over Russia

Washington, Jun 7 (efe-epa).- US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats avoided confirming Wednesday whether President Donald Trump “asked” him to influence the probe on Russia, but he said he had never felt “pressured” to intervene in any federal investigation.

“In my time of service, which is interacting with the president of the United States or anybody in his administration, I have never been pressured – I have never felt pressured – to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relation to an ongoing investigation,” Coats said during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on whether Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election and colluded with the Trump campaign.

Coats did not comment on a story published Tuesday by The Washington Post, which alleged that Trump asked the DNI to convince former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation of Gen. Michael Flynn, who served briefly as the president’s national security adviser and is a key figure in the Russia case.

The former senator from Indiana, who took over as DNI on March 16, told senators it would be “inappropriate” to discuss his conversations with the president at a public hearing because classified intelligence was brought up.

Coats, however, left open the possibility of testifying in a closed-door hearing.

National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, who was allegedly asked by Trump to influence the investigation of Russian meddling in the election, also refused to discuss his conversations with the president.

“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 believed to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate,” Rogers said. “And to the best of my recollection, I do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so.”

Trump, according to a Washington Post story published last month, asked both Coats and Rogers to deny publicly that there was any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

Coats and Rogers declined to do so, the newspaper reported.

The intelligence chiefs’ appearance came a day before Comey, who was fired on May 9, is set to publicly testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Comey’s appearance before the panel has created high expectations in the US capital, as senators will presumably ask him about the alleged memoranda he wrote of conversations with Trump concerning the FBI’s investigation of Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election.

On May 16, The New York Times first reported the existence of Comey’s memos, one of which allegedly documented Trump’s request to shut down the investigation into Flynn.