The latest must-watch event — former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee — has some D.C. bars opening its doors as early as 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 8, to host viewing parties complete with food and drinks.
As James Comey faces questions regarding his discussions with President Donald Trump about the federal investigation into Russia’s election meddling, testimony party-goers can “watch the drama unfold” while tucking into “FBI”-themed fare or nursing Covfefe cocktails.
Comey, who was fired as FBI director last month, could inflict real damage on President Trump with his testimony — and for a few hours, he’ll have the nation’s full attention. Broadcast TV networks, as well as their cable counterparts, have cleared their schedules to provide wall-to-wall live coverage of the hearing, which is set to begin at 10 a.m. CNN has even started a countdown clock.
Comey has said it will be the only public testimony he will give on recent events, according to the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
The feverish atmosphere ahead of the former FBI director’s appearance is unlike anything seen in Washington in decades.
Jim Manley, who was a long-serving aide to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said he could not remember such public attention being paid to a congressional appearance since Anita Hill testified during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court more than 25 years ago. Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment; Thomas denied it and was confirmed.
Manley noted, however: “Things have radically changed since then, with the proliferation of cable TV as well as Twitter coverage and things like that. From a media perspective, this is going to be wildly different.”
There will also be an avid audience for any response that Trump offers to Comey. During Tuesday’s White House media briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer demurred when asked whether the president would watch the testimony. Spicer said only that Trump “has a full day on Thursday.”
Trump, meanwhile, said, “I wish him luck” when asked about Comey’s appearance.
The president is set to give a speech during the latter part of the Comey hearing, opening the possibility that he could be watching — and tweeting — in the opening hour.
Trump’s Twitter use has once again been the subject of controversy since the weekend. He has used the social media platform to criticize the mayor of London, his own Justice Department and the Gulf nation of Qatar.
Washington Post reporter Robert Costa tweeted on Tuesday that he had been “told by two WH sources that Pres. Trump does not plan to put down Twitter on Thursday. May live tweet if he feels the need to respond.”
The over-arching question on Thursday’s testimony is whether Comey will outline conduct on Trump’s part that comes close to obstruction of justice. On Tuesday, ABC News reported — citing “a source familiar with Comey’s thinking” — that he would not make such an allegation himself.
But the source told the news organization that Comey “is not going to Congress to make accusations about the president’s intent, instead he’s there to share his concerns.”
Those concerns are believed to focus on two encounters with Trump. At a dinner on Jan. 27, Trump is alleged to have pressed Comey at least twice to pledge his “loyalty” to him. Comey is said to have responded only by promising his honesty. The White House disputes that account. source