In the days and hours leading up to a hearing of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, the Big Three Networks (ABC, CBC, and NBC) were giddy at the prospect of two heads of U.S. intelligence agencies fingering President Trump in a plot to shut down the Russian investigation. But after the two and a half hour long hearing, they weren’t kicking themselves for getting their hopes up, they were kicking Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA Director Michael Rogers for not giving them what they wanted.
During their testimonies, both DNI Coats and NSA Director Rogers told the panel of Senators that they had never felt like President Trump was trying to influence them to interfere with any investigation. “I do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so,” said Rogers, while Coats said, “I never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way.” Their sworn public testimony goes against press reports that cite anonymous sources who claim both men were pressured by Trump to interfere with the FBI’s investigation.
The statements by the intelligence chiefs didn’t sit well with ABC and NBC who smeared them as stonewalling the committee. “Top intelligence officials facing questions about reports the President asked some of them to get involved in the FBI's Russia investigation,” reported Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson on NBC Nightly News. “Asked to elaborate, they didn't.” That was followed up by a series of quick clips of heated questioning:
SENATOR ANGUS KING: Why are you not answering?
MICHAEL ROGERS: Because I feel it’s inappropriate to answer.
KING: What you feel isn’t relevant, Admiral! What you feel isn’t the answer.
On ABC’s World News Tonight, they played up the tension. “Did he then pursue heads of the intelligence community? Today, those intelligence chiefs were on Capitol Hill,” hyped Anchor David Muir as he led into the segment. “They were asked, did the president ask them to intervene? Senators on both sides of the aisle were not pleased with what they heard.”
Correspondent Pierre Thomas started his report by calling the hearing a “standoff” and focusing on their refusal to give details of their conversations with Trump in a public setting. “At issue, critical conversations with the President,” Thomas said before citing even more anonymous sources. “Did the President then turn to the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, to sway him as well, as The Washington Post reported overnight?”
“Over and over, they would not reveal what, if anything, the President had said to them. And many Senators grew frustrated, saying there was no reason not to answer the questions,” Thomas bemoaned.
What both ABC and NBC failed to mention was that the public Senate hearing was not the only one Coats and Rogers attended on Wednesday. As discussed during the hearing, both intelligence chiefs and the Senators would be having a private hearing later in the day. Both men made a promise to the Senators during the public hearing to be more open during the private one.
The anonymous claims about Trump pressuring high-ranking intelligence officials were not the only false statement to come crashing down. Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe brought down additional false media reports when he reaffirmed that the FBI did have enough resources to pursue the Russia investigation and that the Trump administration had not tried to interfere with the Russian investigation.
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NBC Nightly News
June 7, 2017
7:06:00 PM Eastern
LESTER HOLT: And the fallout from Comey’s statement was swift, part of a busy day across the capital as lawmakers demanded to know from top members of the intelligence community if President Trump ever asked them to intervene in the investigation. We get those details from the Chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson.
[Cuts to video]
HALLIE JACKSON: Comey's testimony teeing up what some would describe as a political super bowl tomorrow. With today, a kind of pregame. At the dais, not the fired FBI director but the man that replaced him and three other top intelligence officials facing questions about reports the President asked some of them to get involved in the FBI's Russia investigation.
MICHAEL ROGERS: I do not recall ever feeling pressured to do so.
DAN COATS: I never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way.
JACKSON: Asked to elaborate, they didn't.
ROGERS: I'm not going to discuss the specifics of conversations with the President of the United States.
COATS: It's inappropriate for me to share that with the public
ANDREW MCCABE: I'm not going to answer any questions Mr. Senator
ANGUS KING: Why are you not answering?
ROGERS: Because I feel it’s inappropriate to answer.
KING: What you feel isn’t relevant, Admiral. What you feel isn’t the answer.
JACKSON: So why didn’t you get answers?
JOHN MCCAIN: You’ll have to ask them. I was obviously very unhappy about it. That was the whole purpose of my questioning.
JACKSON: The committee's top Republican, just as sharp.
RICHARD BURR: At no time should you be in a position where you come to Congress without an answer.
[Cuts back to live]
JACKSON: So not many answers today but Senators will be demanding them from Comey tomorrow. Because what they are already seeing his initial statement, it's the questions after that could give more insight into the President's actions. Comey's opening statement really only the beginning. Lester?
World News Tonight
June 7, 2017
6:40:25 PM Eastern
DAVID MUIR: Next tonight here, the reports it wasn't just James Comey that the President approached when it came to the Michael Flynn and Russia investigations. Did he then pursue heads of the intelligence community? Today, those intelligence chiefs were on Capitol Hill. They were asked, did the president ask them to intervene? Senators on both sides of the aisle were not pleased with what they heard. Here's ABC's Pierre Thomas tonight.
[Cuts to video]
PIERRE THOMAS: The standoff went on for two and a half hours. Senators from both sides pressing the nation's top intelligence officials about whether President Trump asked them to intervene in the investigation into Michael Flynn or the Russia investigations in any way.
MARK WARNER: Let me ask you specifically, did the President, the reports that are out there, ask you in any way, shape or form to back off or downplay the Russian investigation?
MICHAEL ROGERS: I'm not going to discuss the specifics of conversations with the President of the United States.
MARCO RUBIO: Are you prepared to say that you have never felt or either have been asked by the President or the White House to influence an ongoing investigation?
DAN COATS: I'm not prepared to answer your question today.
THOMAS: At issue, critical conversations with the President. After President Trump reportedly asked the fired FBI Director James Comey about the investigation into the Michael Flynn, saying “I hope you can let this go.” Did the President then turn to the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, to sway him as well, as The Washington Post reported overnight?
COATS: I have never been pressured and I have never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relationship to an ongoing investigation.
THOMAS: Lawmakers then pressing further. Asking not whether they felt pressured, but simply, did the President ask them to intervene?
WARNER: We have press reports of not once, but twice, that the President of the United States asked you to either downplay the Russia investigation or to directly intervene with Director Comey. Can you set the record straight about what happened or didn't happen?
COATS: Confidential conversations between the President and myself. I do not feel it's appropriate for me to in a public session.
THOMAS: And other conversations not about Flynn, this time about possible collusion with the Russians. Did the President try to get Coats and NSA Director Mike Rogers to publicly deny there was any evidence of Trump campaign officials colluding with Russians?
ROGERS: I have never been directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, immoral, unethical or inappropriate.
THOMAS: Over and over, they would not reveal what, if anything, the President had said to them. And many Senators grew frustrated, saying there was no reason not to answer the questions.
MARTIN HEINRICH: Well, I think your unwillingness to answer a very basic question speaks volume.
ANGUS KING: Why are you not answering our questions –
RODGERS: Because I feel it's inappropriate, Senator.
KING: What you feel isn't relevant, Admiral.
RODGERS: I stand by the comments I've made. I'm not interested in repeating myself, sir, and I don't mean that in a contentious way.
KING: Well, I do mean it in a contentious way!
THOMAS: The atmosphere reaching a boiling point.
KING: You swore that oath to tell us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and today you are refusing to do so. What is the legal basis for your refusal to testify to this committee?
COATS: I'm not sure I have a legal basis.
THOMAS: And in the end, the grilling seemingly taking a toll even on the NSA director, a seasoned Navy man.