Donald Trump will not use his presidential powers to prevent ex-FBI chief James Comey from testifying to Congress, the White House has said, bracing for an explosive testimony that is expected to delve into the agency’s Russia probe. “The President’s power to assert executive privilege is well-established. However, in order to facilitate a swift and thorough examination of the facts sought by the Senate Intelligence Committee, President Trump will not assert executive privilege regarding James Comey’s scheduled testimony,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement.
Comey is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday in a hearing that will likely shed light on his conversations and interactions with Trump.
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Trump fired Comey early last month amid FBI’s probe into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia to tilt the election in the Republican’s favour.
Comey is expected to be questioned about the circumstances of his firing and allegations that Trump tried to stifle the agency’s Russia investigation and divert attention to intelligence leaks that have hurt his administration.
Comey’s testimony will be his first public comments since Trump fired him early last month.
Comey reportedly wrote memos describing conversations with Trump before he was fired in which Trump allegedly asked him to “let this go”, referring to the FBI’s investigation of Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Earlier, the White House had said that Trump was considering the use of executive privilege to halt Comey’s testimony, essentially arguing that he is afforded an expectation of privacy in conversations he may have had with a government official.
But experts were quoted by The Washington Post as saying that any attempt to assert executive privilege over Comey’s expected testimony would be on shaky ground legally, largely because he is no longer a government employee.
The Justice Department’s investigation into Russian interference in the election and any possible collusion with Trump campaign associates has now been taken over by a special counsel, former FBI director Robert Mueller.