WASHINGTON — President Trump does not plan to invoke executive privilege to try to prevent James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, from providing potentially damaging testimony to Congress on statements the president made about an investigation into his former national security adviser, two senior administration officials said Friday.
Mr. Trump could still move to block the testimony next week, given his history of changing his mind at the last minute about major decisions. But legal experts have said that Mr. Trump has a weak case to invoke executive privilege because he has publicly addressed his conversations with Mr. Comey, and any such move could carry serious political risks.
One of the administration officials said Friday evening that Mr. Trump wanted Mr. Comey to testify because the president had nothing to hide and wanted Mr. Comey’s statements to be publicly aired. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a decision that had not been announced.
A White House spokesman did not respond to a message seeking comment. Earlier on Friday, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, would not say what Mr. Trump planned to do.Continue reading the main story
“The date for the hearing was just set,” Mr. Spicer said. “I haven’t spoken to counsel yet; I don’t know how they’ll respond.”
Mr. Comey, who was fired by Mr. Trump last month, has been called to testify Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into how the Russian government meddled in the presidential election and whether Mr. Trump’s associates colluded with the Russians.
On Friday evening, House Democrats sent a letter to the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, saying there was no case for the president to exert the privilege on Mr. Comey.
Invoking executive privilege can be a politically treacherous move, recalling past scandals like Watergate, in which President Richard M. Nixon asserted the power in efforts to block congressional investigations. President Barack Obama used the legal authority once, during congressional inquiries after weapons ended up in the possession of Mexican gun cartels.
Presidents have often moved to keep their records and other communications with senior officials private until they leave office, on the theory that confidentiality is crucial to their ability to receive unvarnished advice on sensitive matters. But seeking a restraining order barring testimony by Mr. Comey, who is now a private citizen, would be unprecedented.
Mr. Comey is expected to testify about several conversations he had with the president, including one in which Mr. Trump encouraged him to stop investigating his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, according to a memo by Mr. Comey. In another conversation during a one-on-one dinner at the White House, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey to pledge his loyalty, and Mr. Comey declined to do so, according to Mr. Comey’s associates.
Mr. Comey, according to people close to him, recorded his discussions with Mr. Trump in memos he wrote shortly after each interaction.
Democrats have said that Mr. Trump’s conversations with Mr. Comey show that the president was trying to obstruct the F.B.I.’s investigation into Mr. Flynn, who is under scrutiny for calls he had with the Russian ambassador and for work he did for a firm that had ties to the Turkish government.
Legal experts have said that Mr. Trump’s tweets about Mr. Comey would damage any claim of executive privilege.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Mr. Trump said in one post, shortly after The New York Times reported the request for the loyalty pledge.