James Comey's Thursday testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to have dramatic moments—but the drama began early with the release of prepared remarks Wednesday detailing private meetings with President Trump. At the Lawfare blog, Comey ally Benjamin Wittes describes the written testimony as "the most shocking single document" about presidential conduct since Watergate. With his account of Trump "attempting to enmesh him in an inappropriate relationship," the former FBI director is describing "conduct that a society committed to the rule of law simply cannot accept in a president," Wittes writes. The hearing starts at 10am Eastern. A roundup of coverage:
- The White House put a positive spin on the release, in which Comey says Trump was not the target of a counter-intelligence operation, the New York Times reports. "The president is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the president was not under investigation in any Russian probe," Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz said in a statement. "The president feels completely and totally vindicated."
- At Axios, Mike Allen thinks the White House might have reason to be relieved. "Here's a truth bomb," he writes. Comey's account describes "unprecedented and, to most, disturbing behavior by the president. But it presents no new information that proves a crime."
- After the release, Chris Christie defended Trump, saying he is an "outsider president" and his talks with Comey, in which he allegedly told the FBI chief he needed loyalty, are what Trump "considers to be normal New York City conversation," Vox reports.
- The Washington Post looks at whether Comey is likely to be asked to provide more details on his conversations with Trump—and at whether the focus of congressional inquiries may now switch to obstruction of justice allegations.
- At Politico, Rich Lowry notes that Comey may face an "expectations problem" at the hearing. Some are expecting the hearing to be "Watergate and the Clinton impeachment rolled into one," though the release suggests Comey may "fizzle" by that standard. It appears that "Comey doesn’t have Trump nailed for high crimes and misdemeanors," Lowry writes. "Rather, he has him dead to rights for amateurish and ham-handed scheming, which is not an impeachable offense."
- The AP profiles the eight Republicans and seven Democrats on the Senate Intelligence panel that will question Comey, and looks at what line of questioning each of them might pursue.
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