Aides to President Donald Trump say he will not stop James Comey from speaking to members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
Comey is the former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Committee members want to question him about his talks with Trump before the president ordered his dismissal.
President Trump had been considering whether to say their discussions should be kept secret under the legal doctrine of “executive privilege.”
In the past, other presidents have claimed executive privilege to keep their discussions with top aides secret. But if Trump had tried to do so with Comey, it would have caused many people to think that the administration was trying to hide information about the Russia investigation. And political observers believe courts would not have supported Trump’s claim.
Presidential spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the Trump administration wants a quick and complete examination of the facts.
Political observers say Comey’s statements to the committee could harm the president.
Russian Involvement in 2016 elections?
Comey was leading the FBI investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 elections at the time of his dismissal. He was also investigating possible illegal contacts between Trump campaign workers and Russian interests.
The Russians are accused of helping Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, defeat the Democratic Party’s candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Speaking to a reporter, the president said he was thinking about the investigation into Russian involvement when he decided to dismiss the FBI director. Comey was in the fourth year of a 10-year term as head of the country’s top criminal investigative agency.
Trump has often criticized the FBI and congressional investigations of possible Russian interference in the election. He has accused Democratic Party activists of using reports of Russian involvement to explain Clinton’s loss in the elections.
A few days after Comey’s dismissal, people close to him told reporters that he kept detailed notes of his meetings with the president. They say Trump asked during one of the meetings for Comey to promise he would be loyal to him. They said the FBI director would not do so.
Investigation of Michael Flynn
People close to Comey also said Trump asked him to stop the investigation of Michael Flynn. Flynn, a retired Army general, served for just 24 days as Trump’s national security adviser before being fired in February.
U.S. eavesdropping showed Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. before Trump took office in January. People close to Comey said Trump asked the FBI director to stop his investigation of Flynn the day after Flynn was dismissed.
The same people have told American media that Comey believed Trump was trying to pressure him in an unacceptable way. Observers say Comey will probably be asked if that is true when he speaks to the Senate committee.
The Department of Justice named a former FBI director -- Robert Mueller -- to lead a criminal investigation of the possible illegal contacts between Trump aides and Russians. That investigation has just begun. Trump opposed the decision to open such an investigation.
In addition to Mueller’s investigation, the Senate Intelligence Committee and three other congressional committees are studying whether Russia interfered with the election.
The investigations were launched after U.S. intelligence agencies said that Russians attacked the computers of the Democratic National Committee last year. They said the Russians were trying to damage Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there is no evidence of Russian involvement in the election.
I’m Anne Ball.
VOA’s Ken Bredemeier and Wayne Lee wrote this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted their report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
doctrine – n. a statement of government policy; a set of ideas or beliefs that are taught or believed to be true
fire – v. to dismiss (someone) from a job
eavesdrop – v. to listen secretly to what other people are saying