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Trump will not block Comey from testifying, White House says

By PETER BAKER

WASHINGTON – White House officials said Monday that President Donald Trump will not invoke executive privilege to try to block James Comey, the FBI director he fired, from testifying before Congress this week, clearing the way for a hearing that may be the most anticipated in Washington in months if not years.

Comey is scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday for his first public discussion of the events that led to his dismissal last month in the midst of leading an investigation into associates of Trump. Lawmakers are especially interested in reports that Trump sought to persuade Comey to shut down an investigation into the president’s former national security adviser.

It was not clear that Trump would have succeeded in stopping Comey from testifying had he chosen to cite executive privilege. The Supreme Court has found that presidents enjoy a right to confidentiality in communications with their advisers but it is not an absolute privilege and courts have overriden such claims in the past.

If Trump had tried to assert executive privilege and the Senate committee challenged him in court, legal experts said Trump had a weak case because he has himself publicly discussed his private conversations with Comey.

“The president’s power to assert executive privilege is well established,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, told reporters. “However, in order to facilitate a swift and thorough examination of the facts sought by the Senate Intelligence Committee, President Trump will not assert executive privilege regarding James Comey’s scheduled testimony.”

The president fired Comey on May 9 as the FBI was looking into contacts between Russia and Trump’s associates. In the weeks since then, associates of Comey have said the former director felt uncomfortable about efforts by Trump to compromise the bureau’s traditional independence.

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