WASHINGTON – Former FBI director James Comey will testify publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee at a date to be set after Memorial Day, committee leaders announced Friday night.
The public commitment to testify comes after a tumultuous week and a half since President Trump dismissed Comey – a move that perplexed committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., who vowed to bring Comey before the committee nonetheless to testify as part of their probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, including potential ties between the Trump campaign and Kremlin officials.
Earlier this week, Burr and Warner made that invitation formal, inviting Comey to appear before the committee in both an open and closed session, despite Comey's indications that he wanted to appear only in an open setting.
In their announcement Friday, Burr and Warner announced that Comey would testify in open session, and that they would schedule that session after the Memorial Day break.
"I am hopeful that he will clarify for the American people recent events that have been broadly reported in the media," Burr said in a joint statement announcing Comey had agreed to testify.
"I hope that former Director Comey's testimony will help answer some of the questions that have arisen since Director Comey was so suddenly dismissed by the President," Warner said in the same statement. "I also expect that Director Comey will be able to shed light on issues critical to this Committee's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election."
But Senate Judiciary Committee leaders – who also wanted Comey to testify before their panel in the wake of his dismissal – criticized the former director's decision to appear only before the Intelligence Committee.
"There is no reason he can't testify before both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, particularly given that the Judiciary Committee is the FBI's primary oversight committee," Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote in a statement. "Given his commitment to the people and the mission of the FBI, we expected him to be responsive to the senators responsible for vetting its next proposed leader. He should reconsider his decision."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who chairs a Judiciary subcommittee panel that has been driving much of the Russia probe, echoed Grassley's and Feinstein's frustrations, and said he was "surprised" Comey would agree to testify at all, "given the fact that we now have a Special Counsel who will likely be investigating matters related" to his conversations with Trump.