House GOP rebuffs attempt by Dems to subpoena Coats for public testimony

House GOP rebuffs attempt by Dems to subpoena Coats for public testimony
© Greg Nash

Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday failed in their attempt to subpoena the top U.S. intelligence official to testify publicly on the threat Russia poses to U.S. elections.

Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyJudge issues nationwide injunction against Postal Service changes House panel advances bill to ban Postal Service leaders from holding political positions Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' MORE (D-Va.) offered a motion to subpoena Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsFBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Trump, Biden renew push for Latino support Former Intel chief had 'deep suspicions' that Putin 'had something on Trump': book MORE. Republicans defeated the effort in a 17-15 party-line vote that tabled the motion.

The vote was held during a hearing on election security after Democrats criticized Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdySunday shows preview: Election integrity dominates as Nov. 3 nears Tim Scott invokes Breonna Taylor, George Floyd in Trump convention speech Sunday shows preview: Republicans gear up for national convention, USPS debate continues in Washington MORE (R-S.C.) for declining their request to ask Coats to testify.

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Gowdy had offered to invite Coats to testify before the committee in a classified setting, but Democrats described that offer as insufficient.

“We appreciate your agreement to hold a classified briefing with [the Office of the Director of National Intelligence], but we think a briefing, albeit helpful, needs to be accompanied by a public hearing,” said Connolly, adding that a closed-door briefing would be “no substitute” for a public one.

Ranking member Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBlack GOP candidate accuses Behar of wearing black face in heated interview Overnight Health Care: US won't join global coronavirus vaccine initiative | Federal panel lays out initial priorities for COVID-19 vaccine distribution | NIH panel: 'Insufficient data' to show treatment touted by Trump works House Oversight Democrats to subpoena AbbVie in drug pricing probe MORE (D-Md.) backed up Connolly’s effort.

“We must make sure that the public hears directly from Director Coats about the attack,” Cummings said.

Coats has been in the spotlight ever since President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election following a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Coats issued a statement backing up the “fact-based” findings of the intelligence community shortly after Trump’s July 16 remarks.

Trump’s comments at the joint press conference with Putin prompted bipartisan backlash. While the president has since clarified his statement — saying he misspoke — the developments have nevertheless been a flashpoint for criticism of Trump in recent days.

Coats later said he was just doing his job and that he needed “to correct the record.” He said he was encouraged by the president’s subsequent clarification.

“Obviously, I wished he had made a different statement, but I think now that has been clarified based on his late reactions to this,” Coats said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on Thursday.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Tuesday featured witnesses from the federal government — including a top official at the Department of Homeland Security who is spearheading federal efforts to help states secure their voting systems — as well as state and local officials.

At the end of the hearing, Gowdy, who is also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, pushed back on Democrats’ broader demands for more public hearings to examine Russian interference in the 2016 election.

He argued that the House and Senate intelligence committees appropriately conducted their investigations into Moscow’s election meddling in a classified setting in order to review sensitive information.

“I get that some of my colleagues want every single committee of Congress to look into the fact pattern,” Gowdy said, adding that he interviewed more than 70 witnesses last year in what's known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. “But the reality is, given the sensitive nature of this information, that investigation is best handled in a confidential setting, which is where the House Intelligence Committee meets."

“Everything can’t be done in public,” he said.

The House Intelligence Committee wrapped up its investigation on Russian interference at the end of April. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs Rep. Mark Walker says he's been contacted about Liberty University vacancy MORE (R-N.C.) has said he expects the panel complete its own probe in August.

This post was updated at 1:30 p.m.