Senator grills intelligence chiefs for refusing to answer questions about Trump

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On Tuesday night, The Post reported that Coats told associates in March that Trump asked him to try to persuade Comey to back off the FBI's investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn's ties to Russian Federation.

"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", Director of Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closely watched public hearing.

Two top US intelligence officials declined to say whether they were asked by President Donald Trump to help impede an FBI investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 election.

It has been reported that Mr Trump asked the head of the intelligence agency t o publicly state there is no evidence of collusion between Moscow and his campaign.

Asked whether he had been encouraged to influence an ongoing investigation, Coats said: "What I'm not willing to do is share what I think is confidential information that ought to be protected in an open hearing".

Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats demurred when asked whether it was true, as The Washington Post reported Tuesday, that Trump asked Coats if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get him to back off the bureau's focus on Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser.

That potential bombshell testimony-in which Comey also may address whether Trump urged him to halt or ease up on an investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn and his ties to Russia-comes Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Coats viewed the request as inappropriate and declined to intervene, according to the Post. "Is there an invocation of executive privilege?".

The intelligence chiefs indicated they would be more comfortable speaking in a closed environment and Burr suggested during the hearing that he would schedule time for the four men to return for a closed session.

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"You've filibustered better than most of my colleagues", an exasperated Heinrich said.

ROGERS: I stand by the comments I've made.

None of the Trump administration officials were able to satisfy Democrats or King, who caucuses with Democrats, on the legal justification for their silence.

Trump has consistently pushed back against suggestions that his campaign coordinated with Russian Federation and says the investigations into the matter are a hoax. The question is "what did Trump ask you to do", not "did you feel pressured or did you feel it was illegal".

At the often contentious hearing, Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, the committee's vice chairman, was the first to press the question.

McCabe said he would not answer.

"There was no assertion of executive privilege, and thus I don't understand why these individuals did not answer all of our questions today", Collins said.

Focusing on the actual intent of the hearing, Coats said the intelligence community wants a controversial provision of the FISA law to be renewed.

The officials provided no legal basis.