The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's open hearing will feature officials closely tied to President Donald Trump's abrupt firing last month of Comey, which sparked accusations that the Republican president had dismissed him to hinder the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe and stifle questions about possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Russian Federation. But if we look closer, both Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Adm. Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, left open the possibility that Trump asked them to push back or intervene in an FBI investigation - they just didn't feel pressured to do anything about it.
Both Coats and Rogers said they had contacted the White House to ask whether it meant to invoke executive privilege regarding the president's conversations with them, which could prevent the intelligence chiefs from testifying about them. "And to the best my recollection, during that same period of service, I do not recall ever feeling pressured to doing so".
The question of whether the president obstructed the Russian Federation investigation is expected to take center stage this week with Comey's highly anticipated testimony on the Hill on Thursday. "They chose not to and didn't explain why they wouldn't answer", Senator Mark Warner said in a statement on Twitter after a committee hearing.
Coats says he is not sure he has a legal basis for refusing.
Coats reportedly discussed that March conversation with other officials and decided that interceding with Comey, as Trump had suggested, would be inappropriate.
But the allegations have drawn comparison to the 1970s Watergate scandal, in which president Richard Nixon, facing possible impeachment over obstruction of justice charges, was forced to resign. Rogers said he hoped he would be able to answer the senators' questions during a classified briefing in the future.
Senator Warner has been widely quoted as saying the investigation into alleged Russian interference in this country's elections is the most important thing he has done and Sunday on CBS News Face the Nation, he talked about accusations the President had asked Comey to "back off".
He added: "I have never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way.in an ongoing investigation".
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McCabe said they may fall "within the purview" of the special counsel's investigation, but King asked, "Is there some prohibition in the law that I'm not familiar with that you can't discuss an item that you've been asked directly?"
"The chair is going to exercise its right to allow the witnesses to answer the question, and committee is on notice to provide witnesses the courtesy, which has not been extended all the way across", Burr said.
The probe appears to be on a more stable footing than last month when President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey.
Questions about Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election, and ensuing congressional and FBI investigations into Moscow's ties with Trump associates, have dogged the president since he took office.
FILE PHOTO - Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe arrives to testify before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. May 11, 2017.
"What's the basis for your refusal to answer these questions today?" asked a frustrated Sen. "Why are you not answering these questions?"
The Republican chairman off the Senate intelligence committee, Sen.