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What to watch when James Comey testifies to the Senate on Thursday

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         What to watch when James Comey testifies to the Senate on Thursday

Fired Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey will appear before a Senate panel on Thursday, in a highly anticipated testimony that will be closely scrutinized for its potential to raise damaging questions about President Donald Trump.

Comey, who was abruptly fired by Trump as FBI chief on May 9, is scheduled to testify at 10 a.m. Eastern before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The panel is investigating Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections, and Comey is expected to face questions about whether Trump pressured him to cancel an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whose links to Russia are under scrutiny.

Read: Comey to testify Trump asked him to end Russia probe.

Comey has not spoken in public since being fired by Trump. The former FBI director is also likely to face questions about a loyalty pledge reportedly requested by Trump. Two days after Comey was fired, the New York Times reported Trump had asked Comey at a private dinner in January if Comey would declare his loyalty to him. Comey declined and said he would be honest, the report said.

Trump will not seek to block Comey from testifying, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Monday. The White House was reportedly considering invoking executive privilege to stop Comey’s testimony from going forward, but Sanders said the president would not do so. “In order to facilitate a swift and thorough examination of the facts sought by the Senate Intelligence Committee, President Trump will not assert executive privilege,” a White House statement said.

Trump’s firing of Comey rocked official Washington at a time lawmakers and the White House are trying to make progress on both a tax overhaul and health-care reform, two high-profile Republican priorities slowly making their ways through Congress.

Read: Why investors still aren’t freaking out over the Comey firing.

This week, Trump is focusing on plans to invest in U.S. infrastructure, with several events scheduled. The day Comey testifies, Trump is planning to host governors at the White House to discuss the topic.

But a response to Comey from the president is almost certain, if the past few weeks are an indication. In a tweet on May 12, Trump said Comey had better hope “that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations” — a warning against leaking information to the media.

And the president labeled Comey a “showboat” and a “grandstander” during an interview in May with NBC News. Trump has consistently said reports about collusion between Russian officials and his presidential campaign are false, painting the allegations as excuses by Democrats for losing the election.

Also see: Current White House official is target in Russia probe, and Trump told Lavrov that Comey was a ‘nutjob’: reports.

Comey’s testimony comes as the Russia investigation is moving on several different fronts. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been named special counsel to oversee the bureau’s probe into ties between Trump associates and Russia. Last week, the House Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas related to the Russia investigation.

Following Comey’s public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, he will testify in closed session to the same panel.

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