COMEY TO TESTIFY IN CONGRESS
Ex-FBI chief to shed light on Russian interference in US presidential polls
JAMES Comey, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) chief fired by President Donald Trump, has agreed to publicly testify about Russian interference in the United States elections, as fresh allegations increased pressure on the American leader.
In an Oval Office meeting with Russian officials last week, Trump called Comey a “nut job” and said firing the intelligence chief had relieved “great pressure” on him, The New York Times reported.
The exchange supports claims that Trump sacked him over the bureau’s probe into possible collusion between the mogul’s campaign and Moscow.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, said the FBI had identified a senior White House official as a “significant person of interest” in its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Comey will testify in open session of the Senate Intelligence Committee at some point after May 29 though a date has not yet been set. Comey has not spoken publicly since his surprise firing last week.
“I’m hopeful that he will clarify for the American people recent events that have been broadly reported in the media,” panel Chairman Richard Burr said.
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, said he expected Comey to “shed light on issues critical to this Committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election”.
However, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Comey declined their invitation to testify before the panel over the circumstances surrounding his abrupt removal.
“We’re disappointed in Comey’s decision not to testify voluntarily before the Judiciary Committee,” said Chairman Chuck Grassley and the panel’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, urging Comey to reconsider.
The White House has been thrown into turmoil by a succession of allegations against Trump this week, including that he may have obstructed justice by asking Comey to drop an investigation into one of his top advisers.
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is among those whose contacts with the Russian government have come under scrutiny.
“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week, citing notes taken at the meeting and read to the paper by a US official.
“I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
That flies in the face of the White House’s public insistence that Comey’s dismissal was not linked to his investigation.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer did not dispute the NYT account.
Intercepted Russian communications suggested that Russian officials felt that they had built up such a strong relationship with Flynn, that they could use him to influence Trump and his inner circle, CNN reported.
On Thursday, Trump declared himself the victim of the “greatest witch hunt” in American political history and denied allegations of collusion.
“There is no collusion between myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself, and the Russians — zero,” Trump said.
The White House on Friday predicted that the investigation would back up Trump’s account.
“As the president has stated before — a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity,” said Spicer.
Spicer offered a new explanation for the firing, saying that Trump had been trying to improve relations with Russia — and Comey got in the way. AFP
Former Federal Bureau of Investigation chief James Comey has not spoken publicly since his surprise firing last week.