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Washington • Former FBI Director James Comey is preparing to testify to Congress as early as next week about his private conversations with President Donald Trump leading up to his abrupt firing, according to an associate of Comey's.
Since his dismissal earlier this month, Comey had been expected to testify at some point about his private interactions with the president, a s well as the detailed memos he took describing the conversations.
Before he could testify, however, Comey had to ensure his appearance at a public hearing would not complicate the ongoing investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the probe of possible coordination between Russian agents and Trump campaign officials during last year's presidential campaign.
Comey and the special counsel's office have reached an understanding about what he can and cannot discuss, clearing the way for his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee as early as next week, according to people familiar with the matter who cautioned that a date for his appearance had not been finalized and it could take longer to schedule. The development was first reported by CNN.
Comey, who was fired less than 4 years into his ten-year term as director of the FBI, is expected to talk about his conversations with the president and the notes he took about those talks.
According to people familiar with those notes, the president in February pressed Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Comey also documented an earlier private discussion in which the president asked the FBI director to pledge his loyalty to him, and Comey demurred, according to people familiar with the notes. He is not expected to reveal any new details about the ongoing probe of Trump associates and whether they engaged in any illicit activities with Russian agents seeking to meddle with the election, according to people familiar with the matter.
Public testimony by the former FBI director could mark another major development in the controversy engulfing the Trump administration about past contacts with Russian officials - and whether the president or White House officials took steps to try to squelch the investigation.
A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the panel "welcomes the testimony of former Director Comey, but does not have an announcement to make at this time."
On Wednesday, a White House spokesman said all future questions regarding the Russia matter would be handled by Trump's personal attorney.
Trump has called the Russia probe a witch hunt and denied any wrongdoing. When Comey was fired, White House officials first claimed it was due to his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. The president later said he was thinking about the Russia matter when he decided to fire Comey.
The House Intelligence Committee issued its first subpoenas for testimony, personal documents and business records in its ongoing probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, demanding information from former national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, and businesses run by each.
The subpoenas for Flynn and his business, Flynn Intel Group LLC, come after the Senate Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas last week for Flynn's personal and business documents related to his contacts with Russian officials. On Tuesday, Flynn's legal team sent the committee a letter informing them that he would be providing documents in response to the Senate subpoenas for business records and a narrowed subpoena for personal records, according to a person close to Flynn. Flynn had initially invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when the Senate committee subpoenaed a more broad set of personal records.
Lawyers for Flynn did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the House subpoenas, and the House Intelligence Committee leaders did not provide exact details of what they had requested from Flynn. The House subpoena includes a demand that Flynn testify, which the Senate subpoena did not.
The House committee also issued subpoenas for records and testimony from Cohen and his firm, Michael D. Cohen & Associates, PC. Cohen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"We hope and expect that anyone called to testify or provide documents will comply with that request, so that we may gain all the information within the scope of our investigation," Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the two leaders of the panel's Russia probe, said in a joint statement. "We will continue to pursue this investigation wherever the facts may lead."