Sen. King grills Trump officials on refusal to testify

Sen. King grills Trump officials on refusal to testify

Sen. King laid down a blistering line of questions to a set of Trump administration officials appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee today, demanding to know why NSA director Mike Rogers and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats were refusing to answer questions about their conversations with President Trump regarding former FBI Director James Comey and his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

“I’m not satisfied with I do not believe it is appropriate or I do not feel I should answer. I want to understand a legal basis. You swore that oath – to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Today, you are refusing to do so,” said King at one point in the hearing.

Watch the video:

 

Update: Here’s a transcript of the exchanges, courtesy of Sen. King’s office:

Senator King: Mr. McCabe, I’m puzzled by your refusal to answer Senator Heinrich’s question about a conversation you may have had with Director Comey. What is the basis of your refusal to answer the question?

McCabe: Sir, as I stated, I think, first, I can’t sit here and tell you whether or not those conversations that you’re referring to —

King: Why not? Do you not remember them?

McCabe: I’m sorry, sir. I don’t know whether conversations along the lines you’ve described fall within the purview of what the Special Counsel is investigating.

King: Is there a prohibition in the law I’m not familiar with, that you can’t discuss an item that you’ve been asked directly a question?

McCabe: It would not be appropriate for me, sir, to discuss issues that are potentially within the purview of the Special Counsel’s investigation.

King: That’s the basis of your refusal to answer this question?

McCabe: Yes, sir. And knowing, of course, that Director Comey will be sitting been behind this table tomorrow.

King: It is your position that the Special Counsel is entitled to ask you questions about this but not an oversight committee of the United States Congress?

McCabe: It is my position I have to be particularly careful about not stepping into the Special Counsel’s lane, as they have now been authorized by the Department of Justice.

King: I don’t understand why the Special Counsel’s lane takes precedence over the lane of the United States Congress in an investigative oversight committee. Can you explain that distinction? Why does the Special Counsel get deference and not this committee?

McCabe: I’d be happy —

King: Is there a legal basis for this distinction?

McCabe: I’d be happy to discuss that fully with my General Counsel and with the Department. Right now, that’s the —

King: On the record, I would like a legal justification for your refusal to answer the question today, because I think it is a straight forward question. It is not involving discussions with the President. It is involving discussions with Mr. Comey. Gentlemen, Director Coats and Admiral Rogers, I think you testified, Admiral Rogers, you did discuss today’s testimony with someone in the White House?

Rogers: I said I asked did the White House intend to evoke executive privileges between interactions with myself and the President of the United States.

King: And what is the answer to that question?

Rogers: To be honest, I didn’t get a definitive answer. Both myself and the DNI are still talking to the White House General Counsel.

King: So then I’ll ask both of you the same question. Why are not answering these questions? Is there an invocation by the President of the United States of executive privilege? Is there or not?

Rogers: Not that I’m aware of.

King: Then why are you not answering the questions?

Rogers: Because I feel it is inappropriate.

King: What you feel isn’t relevant, Admiral. What you feel isn’t the answer.

Roger: I stand accountable.

King: Why are you not answering the questions? Is it an invocation of executive privilege? If there is, let’s know about it. If there isn’t, answer the questions.

Rogers: I stand by the comments I’ve made. I’m not interested in repeating myself, sir. I don’t mean that in a contentious way.

King: Well I do mean it in a contentious way.

Rogers: Yes, sir.

King: I don’t understand why you’re not answering our questions. When you were confirmed before the Armed Services Committee, you took an oath. Do you swear to give the committee the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God? You answered yes to that.

Rogers: I answered those conversations with classified. It is not appropriate in an open forum to discuss the classified conversations.

King: What is classified about a conversation involving whether or not you should intervene in the FBI investigation?

Rogers: Sir, I stand by my previous comments.

King: Mr. Coats, what’s the basis for your refusal to answer these questions today?

Coats: The basis is what I previously explained. I do not believe it is appropriate for me to —

King: What’s the basis? I’m not satisfied with I do not believe it is appropriate or I do not feel I should answer. I want to understand a legal basis. You swore that oath, to tell us the truth. The whole truth and nothing but the truth. 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, but I’m more than willing to sit before this committee during its investigative process in a closed session and answer your questions.

King: We’re going to be having a closed session in a few hours. Do you commit you’re going to answer these questions in a direct and unencumbered way?

Coats: Well, the closed session you’ll have in a few hours involves the staff going over the technicalities on the number of issues and doesn’t involve us, but I will —

King: When you are before this committee in a closed session, you will answer these questions directly and unequivocally and without hesitation?

Coats: I plan to do that. But I do have — I do have to work through the legal counsel at the white house, relative to whether or not they’re going to exercise executive —

King: Admiral Rogers, will you answer these questions in a closed session?

Rogers: I likewise respond as the DNI has. I hope that is what happens. I believe that’s the appropriate thing. But I do have to acknowledge, because of the sensitive nature and the executive privilege aspect to this, I need to be talking to the General Counsel and the White House. I hope we come to a position where we can have this dialogue. I welcome the dialogue, sir.

King: I hope so, too. I’d add in conclusion, both of you testified you’d never been pressured under three years. I’d argue you have waived executive privilege by, in effect, testifying as to something that didn’t happen. I believe opened the door to these questions. It is my belief that you are inappropriately refusing to answer these questions today. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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