President Donald Trump on Sunday jabbed at his former FBI Director, going on Twitter to call James Comey “cowardly,” as the lawmakers in both the House and Senate are ready this week to ask even more questions of top Trump Administration officials about the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Here are some of the possibilities:
1. Attorney General Sessions. Originally, Sessions was going to testify on Tuesday before both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, as those panels conduct their regular budget hearings for 2018. But suddenly on Saturday, the Justice Department announced that Sessions would instead talk to the Senate Intelligence Committee. As of this writing, it’s not clear if that will be in open session, or behind closed doors. Democrats – who have never been the biggest fans of Sessions – say it’s time for the Attorney General to talk. (Update – Sessions will testify at 2:30 pm on Tuesday in open session before Senators.)
2. Why the sudden new interest in Sessions? If you go back to Comey’s testimony of last week, he was asked why the FBI leadership had not briefed Sessions on some of the conversations that Comey had with President Trump. Comey gives a cryptic answer at one point that also made people sit up and take notice. “We were also aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic,” Comey said. He did not elaborate. It’s not clear if those matters are what will be discussed with the Attorney General on Tuesday.
3. Still TBD – the DNI and the NSA. The Senate Intelligence Committee still wants to have a closed door meeting with the Director of National Intelligence and the head of the National Security Agency, to find out more about their conversations with President Trump on the Russia investigation. In an extraordinary moment last week, both DNI Dan Coats and NSA chief Mike Rogers refused to answer questions on the details of those exchanges.
4. Other top officials in the spotlight this week. Lawmakers who want to ask about Russia will have the chance to question other top officials at various points in coming days. As mentioned above, since Attorney General Sessions is not testifying at hearings on the Justice Department budget, he’ll be replaced by the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein – who appointed Robert Mueller as Special Counsel for the Russia probe. Also on Friday, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe will be before the House Appropriations Committee. Look for the Russia investigation to get mentioned in a variety of tangential hearings this week.
5. House Intel also pursuing leads. While the Senate Intelligence Committee has received most of the publicity of late on the Russia probe, the House Intelligence Committee has also been making noise, sending out subpoenas to some, and letters asking for cooperation to others. On Friday, the panel told the White House it wants to know if there are Trump tapes. And the same committee asked Comey for his memos about conversations with Mr. Trump.
6. Don’t rule out Trump spurring new lines of questions. President Trump has demonstrated multiple times that his tweets can change the course of this Russia investigation. In March, it was his contention on Twitter that he was “wiretapped” by the Obama Administration. After he fired his FBI Director, then he raised the possibility that he had tapes of his conversations with Comey (the White House still hasn’t answered the question of if any tapes do exist.) On Sunday, Mr. Trump was again taking aim at Comey, labeling him “cowardly” for leaking material to the press after he was booted from the FBI. We’ll see whether the President stands back, or leans forward on Russia this coming week.