Trump may not block Comey’s key testimony
Days before a highly anticipated hearing, President Trump appears unlikely to try and block fired FBI Director James B. 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.
Mr. 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 Mr. Trump in the weeks before his dismissal, including one discussion in which the president allegedly asked Mr. 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 Mr. 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. Mr. Trump is known to change his mind on major issues.
Lawmakers from both parties urged Mr. Trump not to stand in the way of Mr. 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 R. Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee. He said invoking executive privilege would be on “shaky legal ground” and stressed that Mr. Comey deserved to have his “day in court” after repeated attacks by Mr. Trump and reports of undue pressure.
While acknowledging no “smoking gun at this point,” Mr. Warner said he wants “to know what kind of pressure, appropriate, inappropriate, how many conversations he had with the president about this topic.”
For Thursday’s hearing, Mr. Trump could invoke executive privilege by arguing that discussions with Mr. Comey pertained to national security and that he had an expectation of privacy in getting candid advice from top aides. But legal experts say Mr. Trump likely undermined those arguments because he publicly discussed the conversations in tweets and interviews.
Mr. Trump’s argument in favor of privilege also may be overcome because the investigation is focused on corruption and possible obstruction of justice.