WASHINGTON ― Two Senate committees ratcheted up the pressure on President Donald Trump’s administration Wednesday, sending bipartisan requests for the FBI to turnover fired Director James Comey’s notes, and for Comey to testify.
The Senate Intelligence Committee had already been considering a request to have Comey testify in public after he refused to do so behind closed doors.
But with revelations that Comey kept memos about his conversations with Trump ― including one in which the president allegedly asked Comey to drop a probe into fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn ― the Intelligence and Judiciary committees pulled the trigger, issuing multiple requests.
One intelligence panel request from Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) asks Comey to testify both in public and in a closed session. The public session could prove explosively damaging to Trump if the contents of the Comey’s memo are even close to the New York Times’ reporting of it.
Burr and Warner’s second request asks Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to deliver any notes or memos drawn up by Comey “regarding any communications he may have had with senior White House and Department of Justice officials related to investigations into Russia’s efforts.” to sway the U.S. elections in Trump’s favor.
Separately, the Judiciary Committee wrote to McCabe asking for all of Comey’s memos on both the investigations into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties and anything he wrote down about the Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, including notes on conversations he had with Trump, former President Barack Obama, and Justice Department officials.
Warner told reporters later that he had sweeping concerns about the remarkable developments of recent days and weeks, including Trump’s tweeted threats about “tapes” of him and Comey, the nature of Trump’s talks with the former FBI director, and the classified information that Trump reportedly told Russian officials in the Oval Office after he fired Comey.
“I’ve got questions about the president’s comments about secret tapes, we have questions about transcripts from the meeting with the Russians, we have questions about former director Comey’s memo, and that’s just Wednesday,” Warner told reporters on Capitol Hill. “We want to see it all.”
While Democrats on both sides of the Hill have been calling for an independent prosecutor or commission to investigate the entire Trump-Russia mess, the Senate Intelligence Committee has so far offered the most serious look into those matters.
Burr echoed Warner, saying he wants to “understand the content of the memos” and hear Comey’s testimony about “conversations that he had with the president.”
Given the pace at which the scandals have piled up for the Trump White House, Warner said he and Burr “told our staff that in light of everything that’s going on this week we need to put the pedal to the metal ― accelerate it.”
It was unclear what resources the committee could employ to achieve that acceleration. Only about nine Intel staffers are dedicated to the probe. By contrast, the recent House committee that investigated Hillary Clinton’s email and the Benghazi scandal had about 50 staff members.
Warner said he expects the FBI’s McCabe to respond within “72 hours” to the requests for the memos but wouldn’t say if the committee would make those public. He said Comey would appear relatively soon.
Asked if he’s spoken to Comey, Warner repeated that he believes “very strongly” that the public will hear from Comey soon. “My expectation is that we’ll hear something early next week” from Comey, Warner said.