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 ConnollyDem on Puerto Rico and Trump: ‘God only knows’ what he'd consider a failure Congress losing faith in Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi Virginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence MORE (D-Va.) offered a motion to subpoena Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsDem lawmakers slam Trump’s declassification of Russia documents as ‘brazen abuse of power’ Nunes: Russia probe documents should be released before election The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Cuomo wins and Manafort plea deal 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 GowdyRosenstein report gives GOP new ammo against DOJ Gowdy: Declassified documents unlikely to change anyone's mind on Russia investigation Sunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate 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 CummingsRep. Cummings: Will Kavanaugh take lie detector test and ask for FBI investigation? Graham to renew call for second special counsel Hillicon Valley: Sanders finds perfect target in Amazon | Cyberattacks are new fear 17 years after 9/11 | Firm outs alleged British Airways hackers | Trump to target election interference with sanctions | Apple creating portal for police data requests 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 TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser 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 BurrKey House Dem's objections stall intel bill as deadline looms Trump assures storm victims in Carolinas: 'We will be there 100 percent' Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas 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.