Thursday 20 July 2017

White House: Trump will not claim executive privilege to block Comey testimony

Former FBI director James Comey (Susan Walsh/AP)
Former FBI director James Comey (Susan Walsh/AP)

US President Donald Trump will not assert executive privilege to try to block testimony by sacked FBI director James Comey, the White House has confirmed.

Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the president's power to invoke privilege is "well-established".

But she said Mr Trump will not take that step in order to ensure a "swift and thorough examination of the facts" related to Mr Comey's sacking and the multiple investigations into Russia's election meddling.

Mr Comey is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

Mr Comey's appearance before the Senate intelligence committee will mark his first public comments since he was abruptly sacked by the president last month.

White House officials had weighed trying to block Mr Comey by arguing that his discussions with the president pertained to national security and that there was an expectation of privacy.

However, officials ultimately concluded that the optics of taking that step would be worse than the risk of letting the former FBI director testify freely.

Legal experts have also said that the president is likely to have undermined his ability to assert executive privilege by publicly discussing his dealings with Mr Comey in tweets and interviews.

Legislators in both parties have urged Mr Trump to allow Mr Comey to testify publicly. On Sunday, Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican and a member of the intelligence committee, said the president would be "better served by getting all this information out".

"Sooner rather than later, let's find out what happened and bring this to a conclusion," Mr Blunt told Fox News.

''You don't do that I think by invoking executive privilege on a conversation you had apparently with nobody else in the room."

Mr Comey's associates have alleged that Mr Trump asked the FBI director if he could drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his Russian contacts. The White House has denied the president made that request.

AP

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