FBI Director James Comey’s upcoming congressional testimony will be the ‘Superbowl” of congressional hearings, and 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 president allegedly said he hoped Comey would drop the Flynn investigation, a request that concerned Comey enough that he documented the conversation in a memo shortly after speaking with the president. In the memo, according to sources close to Comey who reviewed it, Trump said: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” during a February meeting.
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.
Some legal experts told ABC News that Trump’s requests as detailed in the memo, which ABC News has not seen, could meet the legal definition of obstruction.
Comey told associates he plans to testify that despite the unusual request from the president he believed strongly that if he did his job properly he could conduct the investigation in an honest way.
When the President fired Comey early last month he wrote him a letter saying, “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”
Comey’s associates have insisted in recent weeks that Comey would never have offered such assurances, even to the president, as a matter of principle. The FBI has confirmed publicly that it is conducting an investigation into Russian meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, but it has not named names.
The New York Times first reported last month that Trump asked Comey to shut down the Flynn investigation. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump allegedly told Comey. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Comey is scheduled to testify publicly for the first time since he was fired at a hearing in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
ABC news contributed to this report.