WATCH: Director Of National Intelligence Jabs Washington Post Over Trump-Russia Story
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats subtly disputed a Washington Post report Wednesday about his interactions with President Trump regarding the Russia investigation, saying that he does not take everything printed in the newspaper “at face value.”
“You’re asking me… [to] comment on the integrity of the Washington Post’s reporting?” Coats said in response to a line of questioning from Arizona Sen. John McCain during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.
On Tuesday, the newspaper reported that Trump asked Coats during a March 22 Oval Office meeting to intervene with then-FBI Director James Comey to get him to back off of the bureau’s investigation of Trump associates’ potential collusion with the Russian government.
Two days earlier, Comey acknowledged publicly for the first time that the FBI was investigating possible collusion between the Trump team and Kremlin during the election.
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The Post reported that Coats shared details of that March 22 conversation with associates and that he felt uncomfortable with the request.
In the hearing, Coats, a former Indiana senator, largely declined to discuss the meeting with Trump or the Post’s report. But he did cast some aspersions on the newspaper.
“I guess I’ve been around town long enough to…not take everything at face value that’s printed in The Post. I served on the committee here and often saw that information that had been discussed had been reported but that wasn’t always accurate,” Coats told McCain.
Coats reiterated a statement he made to The Post earlier in the hearing that he did not believe it was appropriate to publicly discuss private conversations he had with Trump. He said during the hearing that the conversations touched on intelligence issues and included classified information. However, he did acknowledge that he did not see any legal reasoning for not discussing his interactions with Trump.
“Just because it’s published in The Washington Post doesn’t mean it’s now unclassified,” Coats told McCain.
Though Coats refused to say whether Trump asked him about the Russia probe or mentioned Comey, he and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers both testified that they did not feel pressure from Trump or the White House to influence the Russia investigation.
It was reported last month that Trump also leaned on Rogers to rebut allegations of collusion with the Kremlin.
Trump’s discussions about the ongoing investigation will also come up on Thursday during Comey’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.
Comey is said to have written a memo on Feb. 14 claiming that Trump asked him in a face-to-face Oval Office meeting to back off of an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump himself has publicly acknowledged discussing the Russia investigation with Comey. In a May 9 letter informing the Obama appointee that he was being fired, Trump asserted that Comey had told him on three occasions that he was not under investigation. Comey is expected to address that claim in the hearing.
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