Ousted FBI Director James Comey has been invited to testify in a closed session next Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to a committee aide.
The session would provide a first chance for Comey to weigh in on the circumstances of his firing and update senators behind closed doors on the status of the FBI’s investigation into allegations of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Story Continued Below
The bipartisan invitation was from Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and top Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, and it comes as GOP leaders are struggling to keep the Senate’s Russia investigation contained within the secretive intelligence panel.
Burr, who said he was "troubled" by the ousting of Comey on Tuesday, insisted Wednesday that his committee was capable of handling the investigation into Russia’s election meddling and dismissed Democratic calls for a special prosecutor.
He acknowledged, though, that Comey’s firing would create headaches for his panel.
“The majority of the interviews with individuals within the FBI we’ve already done,” Burr said. “But clearly the FBI is a needed participant from a de-confliction standpoint, and we’d like to make sure that everything that we do does not disrupt any potential investigation that might be going on.”
Burr also said President Donald Trump called him after Comey had been fired, but insisted he did not discuss his panel’s Russia probe with the president.
Burr came under fire in February for calling reporters at the behest of the White House to push back on reports of regular contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, but Burr has since taken steps to assert his independence from the White House.
Warner on Wednesday joined other Democrats in demanding a special prosecutor — a big shift for the Virginia senator, who has expressed skepticism in the past of calls for an independent commission or select committee.
But that does not mean Democrats are giving up on the Senate Intelligence panel’s investigation. Several of the committee’s Democrats on Wednesday said the two options are not mutually exclusive.
“I can definitely see a role for an independent counsel, in addition,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Added Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats: “I think we need to do both.”
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he never had “any doubt about” the need for Democrats to remain a part of the Senate probe.
“I don’t think they’re exclusive at all,” Durbin said. “And I think Democrats should participate in that to get as much information as we can.”