Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, NSA Director Mike Rogers, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein repeatedly refused to answer questions about President Donald Trump, former FBI Director James Comey, and the Russia-Trump investigation during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on June 6 (video below).
Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico asked McCabe if he had spoken to Comey about Trump's reported request of Comey to be loyal, reports RawStory.com.
"Sir, I'm not going to comment on conversations the director may have had with the president," McCabe replied. "I know he's here to testify in front of you tomorrow. You'll have an opportunity to ask him."
Heinrich reminded McCabe that he was being asked about his conversations with Comey, not the president. McCabe repeated his first answer, and Heinrich reminded McCabe again the question was about the conversations that he (McCabe) had with Comey.
McCabe said those questions fell within the scope of issues being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating the alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"You’re not invoking executive privilege and, obviously, it’s not classified," Heinrich added. "This is the Oversight Committee, why would it not be appropriate for you to share that conversation with us?"
McCabe refused to say why it was not appropriate to answer questions about any conversations he may have had, and said again that Comey would speak for himself.
"We certainly look forward to that," Heinrich replied. "But I think your unwillingness to share that conversation is an issue."
Heinrich then directed a question to Coats:
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?
"Once again Senator, I do believe it's inappropriate for me to discuss that in an open session," Coats replied.
Heinrich stated: "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.'"
Coats said he would not share with the general public any conversations that he had with the president or his colleagues within the administration that he thought should not be shared.
"I think your unwillingness to answer a very basic question speaks volumes," Heinrich replied.
Coats insisted that he was not unwilling to answer.
During the same hearing, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia asked Rogers if Trump asked him for help in getting the FBI to back off its investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, reports Talking Points Memo.
Rogers refused to confirm or deny whether Trump made the request:
I am not going to discuss the specifics of any interaction or conversations I may or, if I could finish please, that I may not have had with the President of the United States. 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 believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate. And to the best of my recollection, during that same period of service, I do not recall feeling ever pressured to do so.
Rogers asked the same question to Coats, who also refused to answer:
I do not feel it is appropriate for me in a public session to breach confidential conversations between the president and myself in a public session. 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’ve never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relationship to an ongoing investigation.
Warner later told reporters: "We never got an answer whether there was an effort by the president to get them to move away from or downplay the Flynn investigation. They could have laid all this to rest and they chose not to."
Warner added that none of the officials denied The Washington Post’s report about Trump asking Coats and Rogers to talk to Comey about stopping the Flynn investigation.
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California asked Rosenstein several times if he would sign a document that would to give full independence to Mueller from the Justice Department during the Russia probe, reports CNN.
Rosenstein gave lengthy replies, but refused to give Harris a yes or no answer.