President Trump’s presidency is set to face its toughest test yet Thursday, as James Comey, the former FBI Director, testifies before Congress about the conversations that led to his unceremonious firing last month.
In his prepared testimony, posted online by the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday afternoon, Comey will disclose efforts by Trump to influence ongoing investigations he perceived to be inappropriate.
Comey will detail a request from Trump for “loyalty” at a private dinner, comments at a meeting in the White House that he hoped that Comey would drop an investigation into former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and a request that he work to “lift the cloud” surrounding the Administration on the Russia investigation.
If true, the requests would reveal a striking departure from past presidential practice, with multiple attempts to intervene in ongoing FBI investigations which are supposed to be independent of political influence.
Comey sidestepped those requests, as well as Trump’s appeal for loyalty, in the run-up to his firing, he will testify, in what may be the most-anticipated political moment since the Clinton impeachment hearings. Bars in Washington, D.C., are set to open early for the event, with one offering drink specials for every time the president tweets during the day.
White House aides were caught off guard Wednesday by the release of Comey’s prepared opening statement and rushed to devise a response. Trump and his senior aides huddled in the Oval Office to review their strategy for responding to Comey’s allegations. Administration spokespeople referred reporters to Trump’s outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz, who released a statement late Wednesday that it had vindicated the President since Comey acknowledges telling Trump he was not the focus of the investigation.
“The president is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the…