WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is leaning against invoking executive privilege to try to block fired FBI Director James Comey from testifying about their private conversations regarding an investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser, two administration officials said Sunday.
There’s been no final decision, and the matter remains under discussion, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. Trump’s known to change his mind on major issues.
Comey is to testify Thursday before the Senate intelligence committee. He’ll probably be asked about conversations with Trump about Russian election meddling and the FBI probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. According to one memo that Comey wrote, Trump personally appealed to Comey in a February meeting to abandon the investigation into Flynn and his Russian contacts, said a person who had read the notes.
Trump could invoke executive privilege by arguing that discussions with Comey pertained to national security and that he had an expectation of privacy in getting candid advice from top aides. But legal experts say Trump likely undermined those arguments because he’s publicly discussed the conversations in tweets and interviews. Trump’s argument in favor of privilege also may be overcome because the investigation is focused on corruption and possible obstruction of justice.
In his letter firing Comey, Trump said the former FBI director had informed him “on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.” Trump later tweeted: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
Trump also said in an interview that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to fire Comey.
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said Sunday he hoped that Trump would not attempt to bar Comey’s testimony.
“I think he would be on shaky legal ground, to say the least,” Warner told CNN’s “State of the Union,” citing Trump’s public comments about his conversations with Comey.
“Director Comey was fired by the president And you have the president himself making derogatory comments, in effect, at least reported to the press, calling Comey a nut job. …Totally inappropriate,” Warner said.