Trump Russia Probe

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, asks a question during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Trump Russia Probe

National Security Agency director Adm. Mike Rogers, right, sitting next to National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, left, answers a question from Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Senate Intelligence Committee members, from left, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Angus King, D-Maine, listen to testimony from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and other security chiefs about gathering intelligence on foreign agents, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 7, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine sounded more than a little testy when administration officials refused to answer questions related to the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

When National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers refused to talk about the issue because “I feel it is inappropriate,” the Maine independent fired back.

“What you feel isn’t relevant, admiral. What you feel isn’t the answer,” King said.

Rogers sought to defuse the confrontation, insisting he didn’t mean to respond “in a contentious way.”

“Well, I do mean it in a contentious way,” the senator said. “I don’t understand why you’re not answering our questions.”

The exchange, the sharpest of the hearing, may help set the foundation for the highly anticipated session Thursday where Comey is slated to testify before the 15-member panel that includes both King and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican.

The men testifying Wednesday — Rogers, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats — all steered clear of talking about talks they may have had with Comey.

“Is there an invocation of executive privilege? If there is, let us know about it. If there isn’t, then let’s answer the question,” King said.

He made clear that he didn’t buy the notion that saying something might interfere with the special counsel’s probe into the possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign last year.

When told by witnesses they would speak with the counsel, Robert Mueller, but not the committee, King asked, “The special counsel is entitled to ask you questions about this but not an oversight committee of the United States Congress?”

McCabe said he has “to be particularly careful about not stepping into the special counsel’s lane, as they have now been authorized by the Department of Justice.”

“I don’t understand why that lane takes precedence over the lane of the United States Congress in an oversight committee,” King shot back.

At one point, King sought to quiz Coats as well. He asked, “What is the legal basis for your refusal to testify to this committee?”

Coats answered, “I’m not sure I have a legal basis. But I’m more than willing to sit before this committee during its investigative process in a closed session and answer your question.”

Then he added that he needs first to “work through the legal counsel at the White House” what he could say in executive session, too.


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