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 ConnollyDemocrats debate scope of impeachment charges House Democrats rebuke State Department for 'reversal' on Israeli settlements Maloney wins House Oversight gavel MORE (D-Va.) offered a motion to subpoena Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsFormer US intel official says Trump would often push back in briefings Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Intelligence agencies have stopped collecting cellphone data without warrants: letter 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 GowdyFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Conway spars with Wallace on whether White House will cooperate with impeachment inquiry after formal vote Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' 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 CummingsAdam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings Tucker Carlson calls Trump 'full-blown BS artist' in segment defending him from media coverage Elijah Cummings's daughters back former aide over widow in race to fill seat 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 TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report 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 BurrNC rep explores Tillis primary challenge Trump legal team gears up for Senate impeachment trial in meeting with GOP senators Senate Intel found no evidence of 2016 Ukrainian interference: report 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.