Intel chief quiet on whether Trump asked him to deny Russia evidence

Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsJordan, Meadows press intelligence chief on House Intel Russia probe transcripts Overnight Energy: John Kerry hits Trump over climate change at hearing | Defends Ocasio-Cortez from GOP attacks | Dems grill EPA chief over auto emissions rollback plan Kerry goes after Trump over climate on Capitol Hill MORE is refusing to comment publicly on a report that President Trump asked him to push back on the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference, saying doing so would be inappropriate.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump appealed to Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers separately to publicly deny that any evidence exists of collusion between Russia and his campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

Coats was asked about the report Tuesday during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He declined to comment publicly but said that any “political shaping” of intelligence would be inappropriate. 

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“I have always believed, given the nature of my position and the information which [the president and I] share, it’s not appropriate for me to comment publicly on any of that,” Coats said in response to questioning from Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Democrats need a 'celebrity' candidate — and it's not Biden or Sanders Juan Williams: The high price of working for Trump MORE (R-Ariz.). 

Trump reportedly made the requests after then-FBI Director James Comey publicly revealed the existence of the bureau’s investigation into Russian election interference, which includes exploring any links between Trump campaign associates and Russia. 

Coats and Rogers both reportedly declined to comply with the requests, having deemed them inappropriate. 

McCain asked Coats whether the Post report, which cited current and former officials, was “accurate.” 

“I don’t feel it’s appropriate to characterize discussions and conversations with the president,” Coats answered.

Committee ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis Reed Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Senators show deep skepticism on Space Force proposal Barr says 'spying' took place on Trump campaign MORE (D-R.I.) later pressed Coats on the report, asking him to address the hypothetical of such a request being made by a commander in chief. Coats asserted firmly his belief that any “political shaping” of intelligence would be inappropriate.

“I made it clear in my confirmation hearing … that my role and the role of the DNI is to provide intelligence information relevant to policy makers,” Coats said. 

“Any political shaping of that presentation or intelligence would not be appropriate. I have made my position clear on that to the administration, and I intend to maintain that position.”

Later, in response to questioning from Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandResurfaced Buttigieg yearbook named him 'most likely to be president' Court orders EPA to make final decision on banning controversial pesticide Buttigieg says he wouldn't be opposed to having Phish play at his inauguration MORE (D-N.Y.), Coats indicated that he would provide information about his discussions with Trump to the Senate Intelligence Committee if called to testify as part of its investigation into Russian election meddling. 

“I do believe that the information and discussions I’ve had with the president are something that should not be disclosed," Coats said. "On the other hand, if I'm called before an investigative committee, I will certainly provide them with what I know and what I don’t know." 

Coats further pledged to be "forthcoming" with information to former FBI chief Robert Mueller, who has been named special counsel by the Justice Department to oversee the investigation into Russian election interference.