James Comey’s Thursday testimony is being promoted like a WWE event. In an open session there is damned little Comey can tell us that we don’t already know but the item that has everyone in DC on the edge of their seats is waiting for Comey to dish on conversations he had with Trump.
Comey says Trump asked him to pull back on the investigation of Mike Flynn. Trump says Comey told him on three different occasions that he, personally, was not under investigation.
ABC has a report on what Comey will say on Thursday:
There will be much in former FBI Director James Comey’s upcoming congressional testimony that will make the White House uncomfortable, but he will stop short of saying the president interfered with the agency’s probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a source familiar with Comey’s thinking told ABC News.
Although Comey has told associates he will not accuse the president of obstructing justice, he will dispute the president’s contention that Comey told him three times he is not under investigation.
The request made Comey uncomfortable, but the source tells ABC News that Comey has told associates he will not accuse the president of obstructing justice.
“He is not going to Congress to make accusations about the president’s intent, instead he’s there to share his concerns,” the source said, and tell the committee “what made him uneasy” and why he felt a need to write the memo documenting the conversation.
However, Comey has told associates he will not corroborate Trump’s claim that on three separate occasions Comey told the president he was not under investigation as part of the probe into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, a source familiar the former director’s thinking told ABC News.
“A source familiar with the former director’s thinking??”
"Hello, ABC News? This is Shmames Shmomey. I have some inside insight here for ya." https://t.co/ecY0O3tVeQ
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) June 6, 2017
CNN offers a different and more expansive spin:
In his much-anticipated congressional testimony on Thursday, fired FBI Director James Comey will dispute President Donald Trump’s blanket claim that he was told he was not under investigation multiple times, according to sources familiar with Comey’s thinking.
Rather, one source said that Comey is expected to tell senators that he never assured Trump he was not under investigation, because such assurances would have been improper. Another source hinted that the President may have misunderstood the exact meaning of Comey’s words, especially regarding the FBI’s ongoing counterintelligence investigation.
In addition, one source familiar with Comey’s testimony says that Comey is not going to conclude whether the President obstructed justice regarding the agency’s Russia investigation, according to a source with knowledge. Rather, this source says, Comey plans to present himself as a “fact witness” by simply describing the interactions with the President on multiple occasions that made him uneasy enough to memorialize their conversations. He “will leave the legal analysis for others,” a source tells CNN.
While Comey is anxious to recount his version of his conversations with the President, he also appears likely to sidestep questions about how he felt about Trump’s comments — for instance, whether he felt pressured to drop the investigation or whether he thought they amounted to obstruction, another source said.
Comey believes that his own feelings about the President’s comments are largely “irrelevant,” the source said, and that his account of what happened is the central issue. What matters in considering possible obstruction of justice, this source added, is the President’s intent, not how Comey felt about it.
As CNN reported last week, while Comey was “disturbed” by his meetings with the President, he “thought he had the situation under control” because he felt the President did not quite grasp the inappropriateness of his actions. Comey believed, according to one source familiar with his thinking, that the President could be “trained” about how you do and do not interact with an FBI director. He considered it, this source added, “an ongoing policing project.”
It is reasonable to conclude, this source added, that Comey did not think of any of the individual actions as constituting obstruction of justice. But, he also added, there is a question of whether the “aggregate pattern of behavior” that culminated in his firing could be seen very differently. In other words, while each episode could be seen as a “ham-handed misstep,” the sum of the actions — capped by the Comey firing — could become something much more serious, especially after the President told NBC that he was thinking of the Russia investigation when he made the decision to dismiss Comey.
“That would change any rational person’s point of view,” said one source.
Even so, Comey does not plan to offer his own opinion because he does not believe it’s his position to do so.
“There will no doubt be a tension between people trying to have him draw conclusions and being a fact witness,” says this source familiar with Comey’s thinking, indicating that it is up to the special counsel to draw legal conclusions after conducting a complete legal inquiry “into the White House side of things and not just a few interactions” with Comey.
“At the end of this, will some people jump up and down and say there’s an obstructing offense?” asks another source. “Some might, but that’s a political judgment, not a legal one.”
In short, Comey will make himself the center of attention and resolve nothing making this a very close parallel to the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the dog’s breakfast that is the Russia probe. I share a lot of the concerns of Jay Cost over this episode: