WASHINGTON — Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats on Tuesday repeatedly declined to confirm or deny news reports that President Trump reached out directly to him in an effort to undermine an FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Coats said it would be inappropriate for him to reveal the content of his conversations with the president.
“On this topic, as well as other topics, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to characterize discussions and conversations with the president,” Coats, the nation’s top intelligence official, told lawmakers.
The Washington Post, followed by other outlets, had reported the day before that
Asked whether he knew of the other reported contacts between the president and top intelligence officials, Coats replied: “I am not aware of that.”
The top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., pressed Coats on whether a president reaching out in such a manner would be appropriate. “Any political shaping of that presentation or intelligence would not be appropriate,” the former senator replied. “I have made my position clear on that to this administration, and I intend to maintain that position.”
And he pledged to cooperate with any congressional committee investigating alleged Russian meddling, as well as with
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked Coats whether he had discussed alleged efforts by the president to “stifle or stop the investigation” with Rogers.
After an awkward pause, Coats, clearly uncomfortable, replied: “That is something that would like to withhold, that question, at this particular point in time.”
Coats also sidestepped questions about whether Trump
Kicking off a curious back and forth, Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., asked Coats whether that disclosure was “dangerous” to national security.
“I wasn’t in the room and I don’t know what the president shared. All I have read is public” accounts, Coats said. Heinrich asked whether Coats had only seen news accounts. “I’ve been on travel and I have not discussed this issue with the president,” Coats replied. “I was in Europe and he was in the White House.”
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