Russia Hearings Take The Main Stage On Capitol Hill
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're going to shift now back here to Washington, where we are anticipating a couple of days of important testimony on Capitol Hill. Thursday, of course, former FBI Director James Comey answers questions in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Today, though, a list of other marquee names. NPR's congressional correspondent Scott Detrow is here. Scott, who's on deck today?
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: It's going to be as packed as a CNN panel.
DETROW: You've got Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, NSA Director Mike Rogers, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
MARTIN: So, yeah, a lot of people - a lot of questions to answer. I want to ask you, specifically, about a report in The Washington Post last night - reported that President Trump had asked Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, to try and intervene in the FBI investigation into Russia. Hadn't we heard reports of this earlier?
DETROW: Yeah, about a month ago, they reported that Trump had asked Coats and Rogers to publicly shoot down the idea of any evidence of possible collusion and conversation between the campaign and Russia. That's something that neither of them commented on the last time they were on Capitol Hill.
This report goes a little further. It says that, according to The Post, this happened just after Comey had first made public the FBI investigation. They're reporting that he talked to Coats and the head of the CIA and basically asked them to intervene and asked the FBI to back off - similar to that conversation we heard about between Trump and Comey that's alleged.
MARTIN: So the two other witnesses today are pretty closely tied to the Comey firing. Remind us how they fit into the bigger picture here.
DETROW: Andrew McCabe now runs the FBI as acting director. The last time he was on the Hill, he contradicted the White House. He said the FBI had not lost faith in Comey - that they still had confidence. And Rosenstein, he's the deputy attorney general. He's overseeing the Russia investigation. And you'll recall he's the one who wrote that memo that the White House used to justify the firing of Comey, saying he mishandled the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
MARTIN: So the president, of course, has had a lot to say about the Russia investigation over the weeks and months and how bogus he thinks the whole thing is. What are we hearing from the White House and its allies before these particular hearings kick off?
DETROW: Well, they are focusing on Comey, criticizing him, saying that he's partisan. A PAC affiliated with Trump is actually running an ad attacking Comey.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) And after he testified before the U.S. Senate, Comey's own staff admitted some of his answers were flat-out wrong. James Comey, just another D.C. insider only in it for himself.
MARTIN: Wow, some ad campaign.
DETROW: Yeah, and the big question, though, is how much Trump himself joins into that criticism and whether he does it in real time during Comey's hearing.
MARTIN: Tweeting - yeah, who knows? OK, so NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow, thanks so much.
DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.