Ex-FBI chief Comey to testify next week in Russia probe

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Former FBI Director James Comey will testify next Thursday before a U.S. Senate panel investigating Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, in a hearing that could add to difficulties facing President Donald Trump.

In his first public appearance since Trump fired him on May 9, Comey will address the Senate Intelligence Committee in both an open session and behind closed doors, which would allow him to discuss classified information, the committee said on Thursday, reports Reuters.

Comey was leading the FBI’s probe into the allegations, and his firing sparked a political uproar. Facing rising pressure, the Justice Department last month named Robert Mueller, another former FBI chief, as a special counsel to investigate the matter.

The Justice Department and multiple U.S. congressional committees are investigating Russia’s actions in the 2016 presidential election and questions about possible collusion between Russian officials and Trump campaign associates.

At next week’s hearing, Comey is expected to be asked about conversations in which Trump is reported to have pressured him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whose ties to Russia are under scrutiny.

Controversy erupted again this week after the Republican head of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, approved subpoenas to the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency for information relating to the “unmasking” of the names of Trump campaign advisers inadvertently picked up in top-secret foreign communications intercepts.

The White House and Nunes have alleged that former Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration eavesdropped on Trump’s campaign, an assertion that Comey has disputed and current U.S. officials dismiss as absurd.

Four current and former U.S. officials who have reviewed the materials told Reuters there was no evidence that political motives drove Obama’s aides to request the names be unredacted.

“There is no substance to this, so the only way to look at it is as an attempt to distract the headlines and the public from Comey’s public testimony and Mueller’s investigation, both of which are serious,” said one of the U.S. officials familiar with the information Nunes subpoenaed.

Committee aides complained Nunes had acted unilaterally, and the top Democrat on the panel, Representative Adam Schiff, said Nunes’ actions violated his earlier decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe.

Democratic Representative Jackie Speier said it appeared that Nunes was “more concerned with pushing the White House narrative than seeking the truth.”

 

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