Senators not satisfied with intelligence officials’ testimony on Trump conversations
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle emerged from today’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in agreement; they are frustrated with the limited answers the nation’s top intelligence officials have provided in testimony about conversations with President Trump.
"Since there has been no assertion of executive privilege at this point I believe the witnesses do have an obligation to answer more of our questions," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told ABC News’ Mary Bruce.
Throughout their testimony today, the officials — Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI acting director Andrew McCabe and NSA Director Mike Rogers — refused to say whether they spoke with President Donald Trump about the Russia investigation or whether the president tried to pressure them to push back on the investigation.
Rogers, whose response was similar to the other officials, insisted that he doesn’t "feel it’s appropriate" to speak publicly about private conversations with the president.
"It is not clear whether or not the president has exerted executive privilege and thus, I think the witnesses were in a tough position because they clearly sought guidance from the White House and did not receive clarity," Collins said.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, agreed, saying "I don’t think anybody is content."
He also sympathized with their inability to say more, saying that he is "understanding of why they have to give that (answer), yes. But content with it? No."
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, was confident the witnesses could not detail their conversations with the president because they were "classified," but reiterated his disappointment.
"Obviously, there are so many leaks in this town that it doesn’t matter to some people," he said.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, however, indicated he was satisfied with the answers the four intelligence officials gave to questions about their conversations with Trump.
"They’ve made very clear that neither one of them have ever felt pressure by any president, this one or the previous president, during their time in office, to do anything illegal or unethical or inappropriate," he said. "And to me that kind of covers the waterfront."
Democrats, not surprisingly, are less sympathetic.
"I don’t know," Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, told ABC News, shaking her head when asked why she thinks they are declining to answer these questions.
"There are a lot of questions that still need to be answered and the American people have a right to know," she said.
Committee vice chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said that based on the officials’ comments today, the committee has "more fact-finding to go and a lot more investigating to do."
He also told ABC News’ Pierre Thomas that even if the officials discussed the content of their conversations with Trump in a closed setting, that wouldn’t be sufficient.
"I understand that these are going to be tough questions for them. We’ve got still to get the answers," he said. "Candidly, just giving the answers in a classified setting in terms of the contents of the President’s conversation won’t be enough."