A day after being fired by Donald Trump, FBI Director James Comey was invited to testify in closed session in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee next Tuesday, May 16. The invitation was extended by both the committee's Republican Chair, Senator Richard Burr, as well as its Democratic ranking member, Senator Mark Warner.
This will be the first chance Comey will have to address the circumstances of his firing as a private citizen and to update Senators on the status of the investigation in closed session. It's unclear whether he will accept the invitation. He had been slated to join other leaders of the intelligence community in an open session in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee this morning. Acting Director Andrew G. McCabe will testify in his place.
While Burr said he was "troubled" by Comey's ouster, he stopped short of calling for an independent special prosecutor to take over the Russia investigation. Mark Warner, who had been skeptical of such a request previously, switched gears on Wednesday in the wake of Comey's firing, and joined the chorus of mostly Democratic members of Congress calling for a special counsel.
Burr is confident the Senate Intelligence Committee is up to the task of handling the investigation into Russian interference. While the Senate panel would not be able to bring criminal charges, it does have subpoena power. Others, however, warn that as long as Congress is investigating the connections between Trump and Russia, they will get nothing done legislatively.
While some have questioned whether Democrats who want a special prosecutor to take over the investigation should even participate in the Senate Intelligence Committee's questioning, Democratic members appear intent on pursuing both paths.
According to Politico, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said “I can definitely see a role for an independent counsel, in addition." Added Senator Richard Durbin, “I don't think they're exclusive at all. And I think Democrats should participate in that to get as much information as we can.”
The invitation to Comey to testify comes on the same day the Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed General Mike Flynn to produce documents to the committee. Flynn had previously declined to cooperate with the committee unless he received immunity. The committee declined that deal and issued a subpoena instead. According to NBC News, this is the first time the Senate Intelligence Committee has used its subpoena power since the joint inquiry into the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the first time it's subpoenaed documents since the 1970s.