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The RussiaGate Four circle the wagons, join coverup at Senate Intel hearing

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Back in 1973-74, “The Watergate Four” were the highest-ranking of the President’s men implicated in the crimes: John Mitchell, John Erlichman, Robert Mardian and Bob Haldeman. All four eventually were indicted, with three going to jail.

Yesterday, we saw the unmasking of the RussiaGate Four:

Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence

Rod Rosenstein, Acting Attorney-General

Adm. Mike Rogers, Director, National Security Agency

Andrew McCabe, Acting Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation

With their stonewalling, all four publicly joined the coverup. They now find their professional reputations in tatters—like those of almost everyone else associated with this president.

One by one, they took the exact same position: Refusing to answer questions. Punting. Evading. Hiding behind Jim Comey’s skirts.

Typical were exchanges between them and the Democratic Senator from New Mexico, Martin Heinrich, who wanted to know, simply and as a matter of fact, if the meetings between them and Trump actually occurred, as was widely reported

Heinrich did not ask for the content of the meetings, or what was said, or what wasn’t said. He did not ask if any of them felt pressured, or didn’t feel pressured. He simply wanted to know if the meetings happened.

He got no answers.

Coats: “I do not share that with the general public.”

The others agreed.

Why could they not even say whether or not the meetings occurred? We all know they did. The fact that they wouldn’t answer “speaks volumes,” an angry and frustrated Heinrich said.

Immediately afterwards, the Independent Senator from Maine, Angus King, took up Heinrich’s line of inquiry.

“Why wouldn’t you answer Sen. Heinrich?” he asked.

McCabe: “I don’t want to step into the Special Counsel’s lane.”

Sen. King: “I want a legal definition of why you can’t answer. Why does the Special Counsel take precedence over this Committee?”

McCabe declined to explain. Admiral Rogers did instead: “I feel it would be inappropriate to answer.”

King, visibly upset, grew heated.

“I don’t care about your feelings,” he said. “I want an answer. You took an oath to give this committee the truth and nothing but the truth so help you God.”

Admiral Rogers: “I stand by my previous comments.”

I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this since Watergate. Here are the top four intelligence chiefs of America, testifying under oath before a Senate committee, refusing to answer the simplest questions. Their basic excuse was that they didn’t want to interfere with Mueller’s investigation. But, as the Democratic Senators pointed out, Mueller has not asked anyone not to testify; as Sen. Warner said, “Mr. Mueller has not waived you off from answering these questions. So our questions deserve answers and the American public deserves answers.”

But still, the RussiaGate Four stood mute before the bar of history, and of the law, and stonewalled to protect their boss. For me, the most astonishing moment came when Sen. King once again asked the four why they refused to answer questions, or even provide a legal basis for their refusal to do so. Admiral Rogers finally spilled the beans: “Because of Executive Privilege, I have to talk to the general counsel in the White House.”

Wow. There it is, right out in the open. Trump’s people have said he is not going to invoke Executive Privilege, at least in Comey’s case. And he has not yet invoked it in the case of the RussiaGate Four. Yet here is the Director of the National Security Agency stating he has to clear his testimony with the lawyer for the person of interest under investigation, the man who may have broken multiple laws, the man who alone has the power to fire all four of them: the President of the United States.

Ball’s in your court, Mr. Comey.

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