Thursday, June 8, 2017, is poised to go down in history as the day James Comey stood before a Senate committee to testify against a president who, while his campaign was under investigation, fired him. This will likely be the most charged hearing since Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas.
Comey is expected to answer questions regarding President Trump’s alleged requests for him to end the FBI investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. Comey will also be asked to testify regarding Trump’s alleged request for Comey to give him a vow of loyalty.
Despite Trump’s continued insistence that he did not attempt to persuade Comey to drop the investigation, the expectation is that Comey’s testimony will contradict this and that there may even be evidence to support Comey’s claims. If these expectations regarding Comey’s testimony turn out to be accurate, President Trump and/or members of his campaign staff could be looking at charges of obstruction of justice and possible impeachment.
While this is hardly the first White House administration to be rocked by scandal, this administration is looking at allegations that do not come close to the backroom dealings of past administrations. The suggestion that there was collusion with the Kremlin to alter the outcome of US elections is by far the most dangerous behavior the American public has seen from an American president yet.
There is potential for the President to invoke executive privilege to prevent Comey’s testimony, however, senior administration officials claim that the president has no intention to do so. Even if Trump did attempt to invoke executive privilege it is unlikely that it would stick. Because the President has already spoken publicly about the context of his conversations with Comey it is unlikely that the courts would uphold any attempt at executive privilege.
Just because executive privilege is unlikely to work in the President’s favor doesn’t mean he hasn’t attempted other tactics to block the congressional investigation. The White House has gone so far as to instruct government agencies to not comply with requests for information, relying on Republican support to stall any effort by the Democrats to move the investigation forward. As more and more information has been released and with the recent appointment of special counsel, Robert Mueller, Trump is no longer able to rely on the support of his party.
With the appointment of Mueller, Trump’s hands have been effectively tied when it comes to any efforts to stall or even squash the investigation. The wide-ranging investigative reach of the special counsel means that nothing is off limits. This past Friday, it was reported that Mueller has already expanded his inquiry to include the lobby work done by former national security advisor Michael Flynn while he was also advising on US policies in Syria. The Associated Press is also reporting that Mueller is taking over a criminal investigation involving Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman.
The Mueller investigation is expected to take months or maybe even years, however, the most immediate threat to the Trump administration is the upcoming testimony from Comey. Comey was originally bashed by Democrats for his untimely press conference regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails 11 days before the presidential election last year. It was later discovered that not only was there nothing to be found regarding Clinton’s emails but that the document that spurred Comey’s press conference was based on a document that he suspected to be fake.
Democrats have since done an about-face regarding their opinion of Comey proclaiming his upstanding behavior by refusing to swear loyalty to Trump and defending him while the President called him a “nut job” and said he was a “showboat”. Thursday will likely show a James Comey ready to defend his honor and the job he did as the director of the FBI.
Regardless of the outcome of Comey’s testimony, his appearance in front of the Senate committee will be a bullet point in American history books if not an entire chapter. Never before have the American people been faced with such a poignant and potentially dangerous moment in history.