Four of America's top intelligence officials testified in an open hearing Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, and it just got very heated. That story lines up with a May 16 New York Times report that, according to a memo Comey wrote before Trump fired him, Trump had asked Comey to "shut down" the Flynn investigation.
It's a new twist for a hearing Wednesday that was set to be dominated by questions about the Russian Federation investigation.
"I've got a number of questions particularly for Admiral Rogers and Director Coats", Warner said. Rogers and Coats repeatedly declined to answer, even as Coats admitted that he was not sure he had a legal basis for doing so.
Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said in his opening statement: "If any of this is true, it would be an appalling and improper use of our intelligence professionals - an act that could erode the public's confidence in our intelligence institutions".
Numerous senators' questions referenced reporting from the Washington Post that Trump had kept Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo behind following a White House meeting in March and asked Coats to intervene in the FBI investigation.
The newspaper reported on Tuesday that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told associates in March that Trump asked him if he could intervene with Comey to get the Federal Bureau of Investigation to back off its focus on Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, in its Russian Federation probe.
"I have never felt pressure to intervene, interfere in any way for shaping intelligence in any way", Coats said at one point.
Brian Hale, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, declined to comment on whether Trump asked Coats to intervene with Comey regarding the Flynn investigation.
But Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm.
Two other witnesses, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, declined to discuss any aspects of the Russian Federation investigation.
Trump on Wednesday said he meant to nominate a former Justice Department official, Christopher Wray, to replace Comey as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Early Wednesday, Trump announced his pick to succeed Comey at the FBI - Christopher Wray, a former Justice Department official who served as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's lawyer during the George Washington Bridge lane-closing investigation.
Warner said he came out of the hearing "with more questions than when I went in".
A day before a Senate panel hears former FBI Director James Comey's first public account of his dramatic firing, lawmakers will question senior members of President Donald Trump's national security team about surveillance law and are expected to ask whether the president has tried to influence ongoing investigations into Russia's election meddling and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.
Senator King began his questioning by telling McCabe he was "puzzled" by his refusal to answer previous questions from a Democrat on the Committee.