Updated at 10:33 a.m. ET
The Senate Intelligence Committee began two days of highly anticipated hearings Wednesday that could shed new light on the state of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The senators are expected to ask intelligence officials about their contacts with President Trump, and whether he pressured them regarding the Russian investigation.
The president has repeatedly called for an end to the Russian investigation in his public remarks. But senators also want to know what he was telling the intelligence officials in private discussions.
Trump reportedly asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the head of the National Security Agency, Adm. Mike Rogers, to state publicly that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Neither official has done so.
Citing these reports, Sen. Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat who is vice chairman of the committee, 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. The (intelligence community) fiercely prides itself on its apolitical service to the country. Any attempt by the White House or even the president himself to exploit this community as a tool for political purposes is deeply, deeply troubling.”
Both Coats and Rogers are testifying before the Senate committee on Wednesday, as well as Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The former FBI director, James Comey, who was fired by Trump on May 9, is scheduled to testify before the same committee on Thursday morning.