Intelligence chiefs: No pressure from Trump administration on Russia probe

Top intelligence aide told associates Trump asked him if he could intervene with Comey on FBI Russia probe

Speaking at a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Coats reiterated that he had not felt pressured by Trump to interfere, but he said that he would not get into the details of conversations he had with the president.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the second-ranking official at the Department of Justice who signed a letter recommending Comey's dismissal, also testified on Wednesday, as did acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who took over after Comey was sacked.

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.

Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mueller, also declined to comment on the circumstances of Comey's dismissal.

Making it clear that he would not indicate which scenario was the real one, the official said that in both cases the intelligence officials had reason to stay quiet today.

Early Wednesday, Trump announced his pick to succeed Comey at the FBI - Christopher Wray, a former Justice Department official who served as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's lawyer during the George Washington Bridge lane-closing investigation.

The sources said Coats concluded after the meeting that Trump's suggestion that he intervene with Comey's investigation would be inappropriate.

As a warmup round on Wednesday, three current USA intelligence officials came before the same committee.

When the two were alone, Entous reports, "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".

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Dan Coats said he didn't feel it was "appropriate" to discuss "confidential conversations between the President and myself" in a public, unclassified session.

Comey is expected to testify before the committee on Thursday.

The Senate hearing featured officials closely tied to Trump's abrupt firing last month of Comey, which sparked accusations the president was trying to hinder the FBI investigation and stifle questions about possible collusion between his campaign and Russian Federation.

Angus King repeatedly asked Rogers and Coats what was the legal basis for their refusal to answer questions.

"If any of this is true, it would be an appalling and improper use of our intelligence professionals", Senator Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in his opening remarks on Wednesday, referring to the Tuesday report. All three officials claimed they thought it would be inappropriate to discuss conversations with Trump that may be part of the federal investigation into Trump's team and Russian Federation. The Post reported that both Coats and Rogers refused to do so.

"At no time should you be in a position where you come to Congress without an answer", Burr warned them. That indicates, as Coats suggested, that the officials might reply with more candor in a closed, or classified, Senate session.

Warner was disappointed by Rogers' lackluster answer, and proceeded to ask Coats the same thing.

None of the four witnesses provided solid legal rationales for their refusal to provide answers on this front, and they did not say that the president had invoked executive privilege.

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