File image of Donald Trump. (Reuters)
Washington: Days before a highly anticipated hearing, President Donald Trump appears unlikely to try and block fired FBI Director James Comey from testifying, as a Senate panel pledged aggressive questioning into whether the president sought to obstruct a probe into his campaign’s relationship with Russia.
Comey, ousted last month amid the FBI investigation into possible Trump campaign ties to Russia, is set to testify Thursday before the Senate intelligence committee. The public hearing is expected to shed light on his private conversations with Trump in the weeks before his dismissal, including one discussion in which Trump allegedly asked Comey to drop an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his Russian contacts.
There’s been no final decision as to whether Trump would invoke executive privilege, and the matter remains under discussion, according to two administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. Trump’s known to change his mind on major issues.
Lawmakers from both parties urged Trump not to stand in the way of Comey’s testimony.
“Clearly, it would be very, very troubling if the president of the United States is interfering in investigations that affect potentially the president and his closest associates,” said Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee. He said invoking executive privilege would be on “shaky legal ground” and stressed that Comey deserved to have his “day in court” after repeated attacks by Trump and reports of undue pressure.
While acknowledging no “smoking gun at this point,” Warner said he wants “to know what kind of pressure, appropriate, inappropriate, how many conversations he had with the president about this topic.”
The Senate intelligence committee also has invited top spy and law enforcement officials to testify Wednesday at a hearing about the federal law governing foreign intelligence collection. Warner said he intended to use that time to ask Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers about reports that Trump had urged them to say publicly there was no collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.