Sen. Warner calls President Trump’s FBI announcement ‘more than a little bit curious’

Posted at 11:59 AM, Jun 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-07 11:59:12-04

WASHINGTON -- The top Democratic member of the Senate intelligence committee said Wednesday that the timing of President Donald Trump's announcement of a new FBI director -- the day before James Comey is set to testify before Congress -- is "more than a little bit curious."

"I think it is more than a little bit curious that the president chose this morning as the time to announce his new FBI head," Sen. Mark Warner told host Chris Cuomo in an interview on "New Day."

"There will be a time and place to review him," Warner continued. "But it seems to me that this is an effort to try to take people's attention off what is going to be the main event, at least for the next two days -- the leaders of our intelligence community and the FBI director."

Trump tweeted Wednesday morning he would nominate Christopher Wray to replace Comey as FBI director.

Warner also spoke more broadly about his committee's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and probes into possible collusion with the Trump campaign. He expressed mixed feelings about Republicans' willingness to cooperate.

"I think what you are seeing from some of my Republican colleagues, we're committed to getting to the truth, following the facts, but I think you are seeing some Republicans, particularly House members, try to throw up other stories," Warner said.

The Virginia Democrat emphasized the troubling "pattern" he sees in the Russia probe and discussed news reports that Trump sought to pressure senior intelligence officials related to the investigation.

"We've had reports as recently as yesterday that maybe even more than once, the President tried to intervene with Director Coats to ask him to either downplay or dismiss the FBI investigation into contacts between Trump officials (and Russia)," Warner said.

He was referencing a report from The Washington Post late Tuesday that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats had been pressured by Trump to intervene with Comey.

"If we have evidence that the President of the United States intervened in an investigation, and asked Coats and (National Security Agency Director Michael) Rogers to back off, and then we have Director Comey tomorrow describing the conversations he had with the President, and the fact that he felt uncomfortable ... that's just unacceptable," Warner said.

Coats, however, denied to the Senate intelligence committee Wednesday morning that he ever "felt pressured to intervene in the Russia investigation in any way."