Former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before Congress is scheduled this week, but U.S. President Donald Trump will not invoke his executive privilege to stop it, according to the White House. Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, “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.” This comes in wake of much speculation that the US president may in fact exercise his right to block it. The significance of the move lies in the fact that Comey was probing alleged Russian hacking in last year’s U.S. presidential election. Allegations of collusion by Trump’s campaign were at their height when Trump fired Comey. However, New York Times says that the privilege of the US president is not absolute and that the Supreme Court could have stopped him in his tracks despite the conversation between the President and his staff being confidential.
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Comey’s associates have indicated that he felt uncomfortable as US president had sought to ‘compromise’ FBI’s independence. Trump had reportedly repeatedly asked Comey about his loyalty, but the FBI chief had refused to indicate any such thing. Things deteriorated thereafter. Trump asked Comey to stop a probe into Michael Flynn case – he stood accused of provided misleading accounts of a phone call with Russia’s ambassador. NYT reports that Comey defied the order.
This kind of an order or request can be interpreted by authorities as obstruction of justice which could have carried repercussions for Trump, especially as he sacked Comey thereafter. Of course, Comey too is facing a situation in which he could be put under pressure as he did not do anything if he thought Trump’s request was not right.