Senators on the Senate intelligence committee are expected to push Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about their private interactions with President Donald Trump to learn more about whether he tried to tamper in any way with the Justice Department’s Russia investigation.
A day before former FBI Director James Comey’s high-profile hearing, senators plan to question senior intelligence officials about Trump’s controversies and the Russia investigation at a hearing that is supposed to be about re-authorizing a key section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Senators plan to use the opportunity to grill Rosenstein to answer questions in public for the first time about the President’s motivations for firing Comey and whether it was meant to quash the Russia investigation.
According to some key senators, Coats may reveal more about his interactions with Trump, including when the President reportedly urged the former Indiana senator to rebut the notion there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Coats declined to comment about those interactions when asked by senators on the Armed Services Committee last month but signaled he may be more forthcoming before the intelligence panel.
“Director Coats said he’d be happy to tell the whole truth before the appropriate committee,” Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN: “And he promised me when he was confirmed that he would share and assist the investigation.”
A Coats spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
At the Wednesday hearing, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers also is expected to face questions about whether he faced pressure from Trump to rebut the stories about potential collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials. Both Rogers and Coats were uneasy about the request, given that the FBI is conducting an investigation about the matter.
Other senators also signaled they’d use the hearing as an opportunity to push for more information about the Comey firing — and the Russia investigation — even though the hearing is supposed to focus on FISA. Andrew McCabe, the acting FBI director, is also expected to testify at Wednesday’s hearing.
Sen. Ron Wyden told CNN that he plans to grill Rosenstein about the circumstances around the firing.
“The President has said in his own words that he fired Mr. Comey to make the investigation go away,” said Wyden, an Oregon Democrat. “Now that was not something that was made up by a United States senator. Those were his words. So what we’ll be doing both tomorrow and Thursday is trying to flesh out more details about that matter.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores signaled that Rosenstein was prepared to testify about the topic of the hearing instead.
“The committee requested a hearing on the re-authorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — a critical tool that protects our national security — and that is what the deputy attorney general will be there to discuss tomorrow.”