Former FBI Director James Comey is scheduled to testify before Congress later this week as part of a probe into connections between Russia and President Donald Trump‘s campaign and any impact they had on November’s election. One question that has been discussed in the days leading up to the hearing is whether President Trump may try to block Comey from testifying by invoking executive privilege, which allows a President to resist efforts by Congress or the Judicial Branch to get information on the Executive Branch.
Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, and host Jake Tapper asked if Warner thinks President Donald Trump might use executive privilege to keep Comey from testifying.
“I would hope that he would not. I think he would be on shaky legal ground, to say the least,” Warner said. “Director Comey was fired by the President, and you have the President himself making derogatory comments … calling Comey a ‘nut job.'”
Warner indicated that President Trump’s past dealings with Comey and comments that he’s made about him would be evidence that if Trump did try to invoke executive privilege to keep him from testifying, it would not be for an appropriate reason. The Supreme Court said in United States v. Nixon that executive privilege may not apply “[a]bsent a claim of need to protect military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets.” If the President tries to use the privilege to protect himself or his associates, that might not be a good enough reason.
Tapper went on to the heart of the Russia probe, and the idea that members of the Trump campaign worked with foreign actors to influence the election. “Is there any evidence of collusion that you have seen yet?” Tapper asked.
“There’s a lot of smoke,” Warner said, but admitted that “there is no smoking gun at this point.” Warner said that circumstances surrounding information that came out prior to the election raised suspicion of possible collusion, but acknowledged that so far there is no solid evidence that any collusion took place.
Tapper also asked if Warner believes whether any of the current allegations against the President would constitute obstruction of justice, if proven to be true. “I’ll leave that for much better attorneys than I,” Warner said, “but clearly it would be very, very troubling if the President of the United States is interfering in investigations that affect, potentially, the President and his closest associates.”
Warner touted the bipartisan support behind the investigation, and said that rather than chasing any particular story, “We’re going to just follow the facts.”
[Image via CNN screengrab]