Ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege won’t be used to si­lence Comey

Trump shrugs on halt­ing tes­ti­mony to Congress

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVE BOYER

The White House said Mon­day that Pres­i­dent Trump won’t stop fired FBI Direc­tor James B. Comey from tes­ti­fy­ing to Congress this week, a highly an­tic­i­pated me­dia event that the pres­i­dent and his team are try­ing might­ily to ig­nore.

Mr. Trump won’t as­sert ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege over Mr. Comey’s tes­ti­mony Thurs­day to the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, a move that would have blocked him from talk­ing to law­mak­ers on mat­ters such as whether the pres­i­dent pres­sured him to drop an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween Trump aides and Rus­sia.

White House deputy press sec­re­tary Sarah San­ders said Mr. Trump made the de­ci­sion “in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate a swift and thor­ough ex­am­i­na­tion of the facts sought by the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.” The White House sug­gested that Mr. Trump wasn’t wor­ried about Mr. Comey’s pend­ing tes­ti­mony, with Ms. San­ders re­mind­ing re­porters that “the pres­i­dent’s power to ex­ert ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege is very well es­tab­lished.”

Pres­i­dents can in­voke ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege on the grounds that the ex­ec­u­tive branch has a right to pro­tect the con­fi­den­tial­ity of con­ver­sa­tions be­tween the pres­i­dent and top ad­vis­ers.

A me­dia frenzy is all but as­sured when Mr. Comey is sworn in on Thurs­day. Cable net­works on Mon­day were al­ready pro­mot­ing the hear­ing three days in ad­vance, with CNN and oth­ers plan­ning live cov­er­age of Mr. Comey’s full tes­ti­mony.

MSNBC host Ali Velshi touted Mr. Comey’s up­com­ing ap­pear­ance ea­gerly Mon­day af­ter­noon, telling view­ers, “We’re just three days away from ‘must-see TV.’”

As if to prove the White House’s lack of con­cern, Mr. Trump has planned a week packed with events to show he’s mov­ing for­ward with his agenda.

On Mon­day the pres­i­dent rolled out his plan to re­form the na­tion’s air traf­fic con­trol sys­tem, host­ing an event in the East Room filled with air­line ex­ec­u­tives, travel ad­vo­cates, union of­fi­cials, law­mak­ers and other stake­hold­ers. A Ma­rine Band string quar­tet played in the ad­ja­cent grand foyer, where guests were also treated to the scent of mas­sive gar­de­nias.

Also on Mon­day, Mr. Trump and Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Sec­re­tary David J. Shulkin an­nounced a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar de­ci­sion to put vet­er­ans on the same elec­tronic med­i­cal records sys­tem used by the Pen­tagon. The White House brought in Mr. Shulkin to dis­cuss the move at the daily press brief­ing, which ate up two-thirds of the time al­lot­ted for re­porters’ ques­tions and less time for ques­tions about Mr. Comey and Rus­sia.

On Tuesday Mr. Trump will host law­mak­ers at the White House to dis­cuss ways to move for­ward in the re­luc­tant Se­nate with a plan to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare and to de­vise a path­way for tax re­form.

On Wed­nes­day Mr. Trump will travel to the Cincin­nati, Ohio, re­gion to pro­mote his plans for more in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing to up­grade the na­tion’s wa­ter­ways for mov­ing freight.

The pres­i­dent’s schedule for Thurs­day is sim­i­larly packed, although it’s doubt­ful the cable news junkie and his ad­vis­ers will be able to avoid me­dia cov­er­age of Mr. Comey even if they tried.

“If Mr. Comey does tes­tify, we’ll be watch­ing with ev­ery­one else,” pres­i­den­tial coun­selor Kellyanne Con­way said on NBC be­fore the de­ci­sion was an­nounced not to as­sert ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege.

Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey last month, say­ing he had lost con­fi­dence in him and had planned to dis­miss him all along. He cited Mr. Comey’s han­dling of the Hil­lary Clin­ton email server in­ves­ti­ga­tion dur­ing the cam­paign last year.

The pres­i­dent also said he be­lieved the Rus­sia al­le­ga­tions are phony, although he in­sisted that he wasn’t try­ing to de­rail the probe by fir­ing Mr. Comey.

Since the fir­ing, Mr. Comey’s al­lies have gone on the at­tack against Mr. Trump in the me­dia, say­ing that the former FBI direc­tor felt pres­sure from the pres­i­dent to back off the Rus­sia probe, specif­i­cally as it re­lated to former White House Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Michael Flynn.

The Se­nate hear­ing is part of the com­mit­tee’s probe into al­leged Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion and pur­ported ties be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Moscow. Mr. Comey is ex­pected to be asked whether Mr. Trump tried to in­ter­fere with the probe, which is now be­ing over­seen by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin told NBC in an in­ter­view aired Sun­day that the al­le­ga­tions of Rus­sian med­dling are “non­sense.”

“I haven’t seen, even once, any di­rect proof of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion,” Mr. Putin said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Trump won’t use ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege to pre­vent former FBI Direc­tor James B. Comey’s tes­ti­mony be­fore Congress, the White House said.

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