Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee expressed frustration Wednesday in their failure to get answers from President Donald Trump administration's intelligence and Justice Department chiefs about private conversations with the president, who had not invoked executive privilege.
Also, the Democratic senators noted, FBI special counsel Robert Mueller has not issued any restrictions on their testimony amid the investigation he has been appointed to lead.
"At this point, we've not had that conversation with Mr. Mueller; we've not been waved off on any subject," Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said during the hearing. "The way I'm hearing all of you gentlemen is Mr. Mueller has not waved you off from answering any of these questions.
". . . Because if you have not had questions waved off with Mr. Mueller, I think, frankly – and I understand your commitment to the administration – but Sen. [Angus] King, [I-Maine], Sen. Heinrich [D-N.M.] and my questions deserve answers. And at some point the American public deserves full answers."
In some at-times-testy exchanges with the Senate Intelligence Committee panel, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers repeatedly refused to comment on any private conversations with President Trump, despite no admission of being restricted to do so by Mueller or the president.
"I'm not going to discuss the specifics of any conversations with the president of the United States," Rogers said.
Sen. King pressed Coats and Rogers whether the president asked them to influence former FBI Director James Comey or curtail his FBI investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn or potential collusion with Russian officials interfering with the U.S. election.
"I don't believe it's appropriate for me to address that in a public session," DNI Coats told Sen. King. "I don't think this is the appropriate venue to do this in."
NSA Director Rogers was equally not forthcoming and had tread cautiously in a escalated line of questioning.
"I stand by the comments I made; I am not interested in repeating myself sir," Rogers said, before backing off after an awkward pause and saying: "And I don't mean that in a contentious way."
"Well, I do mean it in a contentious way," King shot back. "I don't understand why you are not answering our questions."
Rogers continued: "I have also answered that those conversations were classified. It is not appropriate in an open forum to discuss those classified conversations."
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe cited an ongoing investigation in their ability to answer the committee's questions.
"From my perspective with the Department of Justice and McCabe also, our default position is when there's a Justice Department investigation, we do not discuss it publicly," Rosenstein said. "That's our default rule."
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