WASHINGTON — A member on the Senate Intelligence Committee is opening his suggestion box to constituents to see what they want him to ask former FBI Director James Comey at next week’s hotly anticipated open hearing.
Intel Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice-Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) announced that Comey will testify Thursday at 10 a.m. in open session, followed by a closed session with committee members at 1 p.m.
So Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) set up an inbox for his state’s residents to submit questions for the fired FBI chief, [email protected].
“My role on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence puts me in a unique position and I take my responsibility to question former Director Comey very seriously,” Manchin said in a statement. “I was sent to Washington, D.C. to represent my fellow West Virginians and I want to know what questions you want answered. I urge every West Virginian to send me your questions for the director and I will do my best to ensure your questions are answered.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee announced mid-May that Comey had agreed to testify before their panel — while turning down a similar request from the Senate Judiciary Committee — but the date was up in the air while the former FBI director talked with special counsel Robert Mueller about the parameters of what could be discussed in open session.
Sources close to Comey told media outlets, with CNN first reporting, that the former FBI director is preparing to talk about his closed-door conversations with Trump — and the memos he reportedly kept of those interactions.
Trump allegedly asked Comey to “let go” of the investigation into Flynn and his Russia ties, a meeting that Comey chronicled in a two-page memo, the New York Times reported two weeks ago. The story said the Oval Office meeting took place the day after Flynn resigned in February. The existence of the memo, written by Comey “immediately” after the meeting, was shared “with senior FBI officials and close associates,” according to the report.
Comey will also likely field questions about reports that, just after taking office, Trump asked the FBI director for his loyalty. As in past hearings when he was still head of the FBI, Comey isn’t expected to reveal details of the ongoing investigation into potential ties between the Trump camp and Russia.
There hasn’t been any indication from the White House yet on whether the administration will try to block Comey’s testimony, citing executive privilege to keep Oval Office conversations private.
“I think that as long as he’s given permission by Mr. Mueller to do so, that potentially we could have bombshells that begin to land next week. But right now none of us really has any idea what he is going to say,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told CNN this morning.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told the network that the investigations within Congress and at the FBI into Russia’s campaign influence intelligence operation were “a distraction, but not a disruption to the point that it could stop anything” GOPs are trying to accomplish.
“Look, there are a lot of things impeding us. I don’t necessarily think that is stopping us. I think there’s some inertia we need to break, but we are proceeding with the work of the Senate,” Lee said. “There are ongoing discussions on a whole lot of legislative matters. Things that are not being halted by this. Sure, there is public attention, attention by the media that’s going in different directions, but that shouldn’t stop us.”
“Would I rather not be dealing with this? Yes. I’m sure the White House would too. I’m sure most members of Congress would,” he added. “But these are the facts and what we have to deal with, and what I’m saying is there’s no reason why we can’t do our job while these other things are going on.”