Former FBI Director James Comey will get to tell his side of the story behind his abrupt firing — agreeing to testify in a public session at the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The hearing will occur after Memorial Day, committee leaders said on Friday evening.
“I hope that former Director Comey’s testimony will help answer some of the questions that have arisen since Director Comey was so suddenly dismissed by the President,” said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the panel. “Director Comey served his country with honor for many years, and he deserves an opportunity to tell his story. Moreover, the American people deserve an opportunity to hear it.”
Since Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to take over the federal probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, the congressional investigations are likely to be largely frozen while newly appointed special counsel Robert Mueller does his work.
But Comey is an exception, and several congressional committees have been jockeying to get him to testify publicly to explain why President Donald Trump fired him and about his previous interactions with the president.
Comey wrote memos describing attempts by the president to kill his investigation into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to several media reports. That’s increased the appetite on Capitol Hill to hear directly from Comey himself.
The former FBI director’s testimony is sure to create a circus-like scene at the Capitol given all of the questions regarding his interactions with Trump. On Friday, The New York Times reported that Trump told Russian officials last week that Comey is a “nutjob” and that firing him relieved the “pressure” of the Russia investigations. The day before, Rosenstein told senators that Trump had decided to fire Comey before asking Rosenstein for a memo offering justification for the former FBI director’s sacking.
“I am hopeful that he will clarify for the American people recent events that have been broadly reported in the media,” said Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
Senators on other committees expressed disappointment that Comey would not testify to their committees. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a joint statement saying they saw “no reason” Comey couldn’t testify in front of both committees, “particularly given that the Judiciary Committee is the FBI’s primary oversight committee.”
“Given his commitment to the people and the mission of the FBI, we expected him to be responsive to the senators responsible for vetting its next proposed leader. He should reconsider his decision.”