The nation's top intelligence official told associates in March that President Trump asked him if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russian Federation probe, according to officials.
Coats says he has never been pressured or felt pressure to intervene in shaping intelligence products.
Lawmakers grilled NSA Director Mike Rogers and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats Wednesday over whether they were ever pressured by President Donald Trump or his administration concerning ongoing investigations.
"We've had reports as recently as yesterday that maybe even a few times, the President tried to intervene with Director Coats to ask him to either downplay or dismiss the FBI investigation into contacts between Trump officials (and Russia)", Warner said. Senator Angus King, independent of ME, was forced to demand answers after three - Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Admiral Mike Rogers, the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats - refused to answer basic questions.
Warner was referring to reports, first published last month in The Washington Post, that Trump asked Coats and Rogers to publicly deny any collusion between his campaign and Russian officials in the 2016 presidential election.
The two refused to comply with the request, which they regarded as inappropriate, the Post report said.
Coats was testifying Wednesday before the Senate intelligence committee. He then held up his hands and said, "I don't mean that in a contentious way".
During Wednesday's hearing, which was about the reauthorization of a federal foreign intelligence collection law, Democrats and Republicans pressed Coats, Rogers and also acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
King, a few moments later: "Well, is it your testimony that when you are before this committee in a closed session you will answer these questions directly and unequivocally and without hesitation?"
McCabe refused to say why it was not appropriate to answer questions about any conversations he may have had, and said again that Comey would speak for himself. I'm not asking whether you felt pressured.
The Maine senator, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, then moved on to Coats.
"I am not prepared to go down that road right now", Coats said. "What I'm not willing to do is share information I think ought to be protected in an opening hearing".
Heinrich: "So you don't think the American people deserve to know the answer to that question".
DETROW: Absolutely, because the other key conversation about pressure and ongoing investigations is the conversation that NPR and many other news outlets have reported that happened between President Trump and former FBI Director Jim Comey.
Wyden kept talking when Coats tried to respond to the allegations, prompting Coats to snark, "Senator, could I answer the question?"