All eyes will be on a Senate hearing room next Thursday when James B. Comey makes his much-anticipated return to the witness table.
The former FBI director, who was fired by President Donald Trump in a surprise announcement last month, is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, in both open and classified settings.
Comey’s testimony is sure to attract a packed house and swarms of media, and the Intelligence panel has booked one of the largest hearing rooms on Capitol grounds for the event.
It became clear Wednesday that Comey’s appearance was likely to come next week, after reports that he had discussed the scope of potential testimony with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who has been tasked by the Justice Department with running the probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, with a broad mandate.
Because Mueller’s investigation could include looking at whether any Trump campaign officials or other associates lied to the FBI or sought to obstruct justice, Comey could spend much of his time deferring to the investigation.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III, a member of the Intelligence Committee, responded to the hearing announcement by providing an email address for his constituents in West Virginia to propose questions for Comey.
“My role on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence puts me in a unique position and I take my responsibility to question former Director Comey very seriously,” Manchin said in a statement. “I urge every West Virginian to send me your questions for the Director and I will do my best to ensure your questions are answered.”
Separately, Democratic Sens. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Al Franken of Minnesota released correspondence sent to Comey while he was still the FBI director, inquiring about contacts between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian officials, including Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States.
“On March 20, we asked then-FBI Director Comey to investigate Attorney General Sessions’ false testimony and any additional contacts he may have had with Russian officials, including reports that he may have met with the Russian ambassador at a small, private Trump campaign event at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016. We anticipated that Director Comey would respond to our letter by May 12. Director Comey was abruptly dismissed on May 9,” Leahy and Franken said. “Since then we have been in communication with the FBI concerning a response to our letter, and we expect to be briefed on this matter in the near future.”
That Comey’s testimony next week will come before the Intelligence Committee in the Senate should be no surprise, since the former director appeared to be coordinating with the Senate panel’s own investigation of the possible Russian meddling.