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John McCain at Senate hearing: We're living an 'Orwellian existence'

  • Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats refused senators' requests to give details about a conversation already reported in The Washington Post
  • Sen. John McCain criticized how "here in a public hearing before the American people, we can't talk about what was described in detail in this morning's Washington Post"

Sen. John McCain saw shades of dystopia during a hearing Wednesday.

The Arizona Republican said that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats' refusal to go into detail about a conversation already reported in The Washington Post "shows what kind of an Orwellian existence that we live in."

"I mean, it's detailed, as you know from reading the story, when you met, what you discussed, et cetera, et cetera. And yet, here in a public hearing before the American people, we can't talk about what was described in detail in this morning's Washington Post," McCain asked at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

In the late 1940s, British author George Orwell wrote "1984," in which people use a government-issued language called "newspeak" that's designed to limit freedom of thought.

The Post reported that Coats told associates that Trump asked him whether he could persuade former FBI Director James Comey to ease off an investigation into the former national security advisor. The advisor, Michael Flynn, was fired for lying about his links to Moscow.

The Post report went into a detailed account of Trump pulling Coats aside after a March 22 briefing at the White House and complaining about Comey's handling of the probe.

Coats made a blanket statement about investigations, but would not talk specifically about his conversation with Trump.

"In my time of service, which is interacting with the president of the United States or anybody in his administration, I have never been pressured — I have never felt pressured — to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relation to an ongoing investigation," Coats said.

Coats and NSA chief Adm. Mike Rogers said they will answer questions about their conversations with Trump only in a closed setting, and if the president does not invoke executive privilege to block them from doing so.

Asked repeatedly by independent Sen. Angus King of Maine about his legal justification for not publicly addressing his conversation with Trump, Coats said, "I'm not sure I have a legal basis."

Watch: Sen. McCain and North Korea in a war of words