There are many ways to say something without actually saying it directly. In fact, sometimes what a person doesn’t say is often just as important as what they do. Case in point, what Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said and didn’t say during a Senate Armed Services hearing on Tuesday.
One of the biggest stories over the last few days centers around a report from the Washington Post that alleges Donald Trump put pressure on top intelligence officials to push back against the on-going FBI investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia during last year’s election. He allegedly did this just after recently fired director of the FBI James Comey testified publicly that the investigations were, in fact, very real — despite Trump’s insistence that they were “FAKE NEWS!”
This latest scandal follows the even bigger story concerning a memo Comey wrote following a conversation with Trump where the former head of the FBI alleges he was encouraged to put an end to the investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn. If true, that would be a blatant obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump.
Both reports represent a pattern of Donald Trump apparently trying to meddle in, undermine, and/or obstruct these active investigations into the possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian agents behind the cyber attack against the 2016 election.
Naturally, Coats was asked about the Washington Post story during his testimony on Tuesday, and I don’t think Trump’s going to like what he had to say.
After Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) asked if the allegations were true, Coats gave a very long version of “no comment” as his answer:
I have always believed that given the nature of my position and the information which we share, it is not appropriate for me to comment publicly on any of that.
However, when he was asked by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) if other White House officials had tried to get the investigation into Flynn dropped, Coats said he was “not aware of that.”
While subtle, I think the difference in how he answered both of those questions was telling.
When it came to Trump, he more or less said “no comment,” claiming he didn’t feel it was appropriate for him to comment publicly on what he had or hadn’t discussed with the “president.” However, when he was asked if he had heard anything about officials from the White House trying to put pressure on officials to drop the investigation into Flynn, he did comment by saying he was “not aware” that had occurred.
He seemed fine giving a fairly specific answer when asked if he knew about any contact by White House officials concerning this matter — yet gave what essentially amounts to a non-answer when he was asked if Trump had put pressure on intelligence officials to put an end to the Flynn investigations.
I get that it’s safer for someone in Coats’ position to say that he doesn’t want to publicly reveal what he did or didn’t discuss with Trump, but that doesn’t make a great deal of sense in this instance. If Trump didn’t try to put pressure on intelligence officials to end the Flynn investigations, then why not just say that? Or at the very least he could have given the same answer as when asked about whether or not any other officials from the White House had done so. That is, of course, if he’s truly unaware of Trump making any such request.
And that’s what stuck out to me.
If this never happened, then I don’t see any reason why Coats couldn’t have either said the story wasn’t true or that he wasn’t aware it ever occurred. Unless, of course, it did — and he knows it. Especially when you consider what he said later to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) if, as the Washington Post story alleges, he discussed Trump trying to undermine the investigation into Flynn with National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers.
“That is something that, I, um would like to withhold, that question at this particular time,” Coats answered after a few moments of silence.
If you ask me, that’s called catching someone who hasn’t “gotten his story straight” so he’s afraid to say anything, specifically, that Rogers may contradict later.
While Coats’ comments don’t come off as any sort of “bombshell” testimony, as I said at the beginning of this article, often what someone doesn’t say is just as important as what they do. Not only did Coats more or less take the “no comment” route when asked about these allegations that Trump tried to put pressure on intelligence officials to end the investigations into Flynn, he clearly stammered when asked a fairly simple question by Sen. Blumenthal if he had any discussions with NSA Director Rogers about this matter.
There’s still a long way to go before we get to the conclusion of all of this. However, based on what I heard from Dan Coats on Tuesday, I believe now more than ever that these allegations that Donald Trump’s been actively trying to undermine and obstruct these investigations are absolutely true.
Watch his testimony below: