3 key takeaways from Wednesday's Senate hearing with U.S. intelligence officials


Top intelligence officials testified Wednesday to the Senate that they never felt pressured to intervene in an ongoing investigation, despite Washington Post reporting that they told associates that President Donald Trump asked them to either weigh in on the FBI Russia probe or to get the FBI to back off it entirely.

During more than two hours of testimony, Comey also said he believed Trump had directed him in February to drop an FBI probe into the Republican president's former national security adviser Michael Flynn as part of the broader Russian Federation investigation. According to NBC News, there were reports Tuesday that Trump had asked both men to publicly say they hadn't seen any evidence of collusion and asked Coats specifically to ask former FBI Director James Comey to ease off the investigation.

Rogers: "In my three-plus-years I have as director of the NSA to the best of my recollection, I have never been directed to do anything I believe illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate".

"I don't believe it's appropriate for me to address that in a public session", Coats said in response to questioning by the committee's ranking Democratic member, Mark Warner (D-Va.), ABC News reports.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday scolded four senior intelligence officials for refusing to answer questions about conversations with or about President Donald Trump that had been reported the press.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe refused to answer questions about whether Comey told him about his discussions with Trump, including whether Trump asked Comey to pledge loyalty to the president. What's - what you feel isn't the answer.

"At no time should you be in a position where you come to Congress without an answer", Burr said. "Coats discussed the conversation with other officials and decided that intervening with Comey as Trump had suggested would be inappropriate".

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James Comey's first post-FBI appearance in front of the Senate on Thursday turned out to be a political anticlimax, with no major revelations about the alleged Trump-Russia nexus or the President's supposed attempt to derail the investigation. "I don't understand why you're not answering our questions". "What you feel isn't the answer".

But Comey said he did "take as a direction" the president's words to mean he should drop the investigation, though he testified that he refused to do so.

Trump has consistently pushed back against suggestions that his campaign coordinated with Russian Federation and says the investigations into the matter are a hoax. Sessions failed to disclose those contacts during questioning at his Senate confirmation hearing, when he told senators he hadn't had any contacts with Russian Federation. But they would not comment on whether Mr Trump had asked them to do so. "Those were lies, plan and simple", Comey said, adding that Trump "chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI" in those remarks.

Ryan acknowledged it was not appropriate for Trump to ask for Comey's "loyalty," but said he was not ready to draw conclusions. He added, senators can ask Comey himself about his conversations with Trump tomorrow, and Comey's prepared opening statement suggests the fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director is ready to be much more forthcoming than today's witnesses.

If "privileged" here refers to information protected by "executive privilege", that's odd, since the White House chose not to assert executive privilege to block Comey's testimony, principally because the president had already run his mouth about the topics in question.

"The chair is going to exercise the right to allow the witnesses to answer the question", Burr said after cutting off Harris' questions.

"I didn't do it myself for a variety of reasons", he said, instead asking a friendly law professor to share his written recollection of those conversations with a reporter.