President Donald Trump's announcement of a new FBI director one day before fired Director James Comey is to take the stand is "more than a little bit curious," Sen. Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said.
"There will be a time and place to review him," the Virginia Democrat told CNN's "New Day" anchor Chris Cuomo.
"But it seems to me that this is an effort to try to take people's attention off what is going to be the main event, at least for the next two days, the leaders of our intelligence community and the FBI director."
Wednesday, Trump announced through his Twitter account that he'd be nominating Christopher Wray as Comey's replacement.
The announcement also came just hours before Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"I think it is more than a little bit curious that the president chose this morning as the time to announce his new FBI head," Warner said.
Warner, also appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program, commented that he does not know much about Comey's proposed replacement, but has heard he has a "good reputation."
"I hear he had a good reputation," he told MSNBC. "I think it is more than curious that appears. The president is trying to change the topic because we have got two days of hearings here and it could be explosive.
"Obviously, [there is] a lot of focus on James Comey's testimony tomorrow."
Warner told Cuomo that he is also concerned about news reports that Trump was trying to pressure Coats and other senior intelligence officers to downplay or dismiss the FBI's probe into Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
"If we have evidence that the President of the United States intervened in an investigation, and asked Coats and (National Security Agency Director Michael) Rogers to back off, and then we have Director Comey tomorrow describing the conversations he had with the President, and the fact that he felt uncomfortable . . . that's just unacceptable," Warner said.
On Wednesday, while testifying, Coats denied to the Intelligence Committee that he'd ever "felt pressured to intervene in the Russia investigation in any way."
Warner told MSNBC that it is "remarkable" to him that already, at this point of the investigation, that "we are focused on the series of contacts that took place with Trump's associates and Russians during the campaign."
Warner also commented on former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's contention that the growing controversy over Russia is much more serious than the Watergate scandal.
"Watergate was a bungled burglary in one filing cabinet at the DNC," said Warner. "Here we have the case of an adversary, Russia with massive amounts of interventions, have been proven breaking into both parties to help Mr. Trump to hurt [Hillary] Clinton.
"We have the use of new technology in terms of internet, paid internet trolls and fake news, and as more and more reports coming out, what seems to be sophisticated and comprehensive efforts by the Russians to at least try to penetrate a number of our number state voting files."
Further, there is the possibility that Trump did not only fire Comey because of concerns of the FBI's investigation, said Warner, but that he was "potentially intervening with the director of national intelligence and Admiral Rogers of the NSA. We are talking about a pattern of behavior that quite honestly shocks me to say the least."
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