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Trump's Intel Chief Mum on Pressure to Rebut Russia Evidence

  • Michael Bowman

FILE - Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats prepares to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 11, 2017. He is said to have been asked by President Donald Trump to disavow possible Russian collusion with his election campaign but refused to confirm such reports.

Donald Trump’s intelligence chief declined to comment Tuesday on media reports that the president pressured him to publicly deny that evidence existed of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

“Given the nature of my position and the information that we share [with the president], it’s not appropriate for me to comment publicly on any of that,” National Intelligence Director Dan Coats told a Senate panel. “I don’t feel it’s appropriate to characterize discussions and conversations with the president.”

Coats later said that he does not dispute the validity of ongoing Russia investigations, saying the probes "are in place to get us to the right conclusion with a known result," so the country can move on to other issues.

In recent days, news outlets have reported that Trump made separate appeals to Coats and to National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, urging them to rebut allegations that Russia colluded with Trump campaign aides to help the real estate magnate win the White House.

The president reportedly made the requests shortly after then-FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers the agency was investigating possible coordination between Russian interests and Trump aides during the election.

Brennan: ‘It raised questions in my mind’

While Coats testified before the Senate, the man who led the CIA during last year’s presidential campaign, John Brennan, told a House panel he saw information indicating contacts between Russian officials and members of the campaign.

WATCH: Brennan testimony on Trump intelligence sharing


“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign,” Brennan said. “And it raised questions in my mind, again, whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”

Brennan stressed he could not say whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian interests, only that there was contact between the two.

“I don’t know whether or not such collusion…existed,” the former CIA director said, adding that he warned Russia’s intelligence chief that election meddling would backfire – to no avail.

"It should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 presidential election process and that they undertook these activities despite our strong protests, and explicit warning that they not do so,” he said.

Last week, against White House wishes, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named another former FBI director, Robert Mueller, as special counsel to lead the criminal investigation of possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Trump blasted the appointment of a special counsel as a “witch hunt.”

Several congressional panels are also investigating Russian meddling in the election, including hacking into the computer of Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign chief, John Podesta, and the subsequent release of thousands of his emails by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks that showed embarrassing behind-the-scenes efforts by Democratic operatives to help Clinton win the party's presidential nomination.

The White House offered no comment on the reported calls Trump made to Coats and Rogers.

"The White House does not confirm or deny unsubstantiated claims based on illegal leaks from anonymous individuals," a spokesperson said. "The President will continue to focus on his agenda that he was elected to pursue by the American people."

VOA's Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report.

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