Week ahead: Comey firing dominates Washington

Week ahead: Comey firing dominates Washington
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The controversy over President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey is sure to dominate the spotlight in the week ahead.

The president fired Comey on Tuesday night in a decision that shocked Washington and set off a political firestorm.

The White House also struggled in the following days over its explanation for the firing, initially saying that Trump dismissed Comey on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsConservatives moving to impeach Rosenstein soon: report Senators urge DOJ to probe whether Russians posed as Islamic extremist hackers to harass US military families The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies for Putin summit: 'He’s not my enemy’ MORE and Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein, who cited his handling of the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDHS secretary: No sign Russia targeting midterm elections at 2016 level Twitter suspends Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks accounts after indictments Elon Musk donated nearly K to Republican PAC, filings show MORE email probe.

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But Trump on Thursday said he had made up his mind about firing Comey well before receiving that memo, undercutting claims from his own officials.

And the acting head of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, also contradicted the president in testimony Thursday before the Senate.

McCabe said Comey had been well respected at the nation's top law enforcement bureau, dismissing White House claims that he had lost the confidence of FBI employees.

Trump added to the controversy on Friday, threatening Comey in a cryptic tweet.

"James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" Trump tweeted.

Trump has claimed that Comey on three occasions told him he was not the subject of an FBI probe. But Trump's claim has been contradicted by FBI officials.

Trump's tweet sparked a new round of questions, and the White House refused to say if the president had recorded any conversations with Comey.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats are pushing for a special prosecutor to take over the FBI's Russia probe, a move Republicans are resisting.

Comey has been asked by Democrats to testify Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The hearing would be closed-door, but it is still unclear if he will do so.

Rosenstein and McCabe have also been asked separately by the Senate Judiciary Committee to brief that panel about the Russia probe.

Political watchers can also expect more speculation about Comey's successor.

Among the candidates whose names have been mentioned are former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), a one-time chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

Outside of the Comey saga, Chelsea Manning, the convicted leaker of hundreds of thousands of United States diplomatic cables and Army files, is set to be released in the week ahead.  

Manning was an Army Specialist in 2010, when she illicitly shared the files with Wikileaks. In January, then President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDem pollster: Trump stronger politically than critics expected Obama updates summer reading list 2018 is the year India, China and Israel go to the moon MORE reduced Manning's sentence to 7 years.

Also on the cyber front, the spotlight will be on the House, where lawmakers could move on legislation to help the government modernize its information technology.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) has said his IT modernization bill could hit the House floor as early as the coming week. 

The bill would encourage the government to get new technologies that would be cheaper over the long run, more feature rich and easier to secure.

The bill is similar to one that passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate.

It merges two funding channels for updating technology: a general fund agencies can borrow from and repay with cost savings from new equipment, and a rule allowing agencies to keep any money saved from new equipment purchases within their budget.

A companion bill in the Senate is being spearheaded by Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranHillicon Valley: Lawmakers eye ban on Chinese surveillance cameras | DOJ walks back link between fraud case, OPM breach | GOP senators question Google on Gmail data | FCC under pressure to delay Sinclair merger review Top Senate Republicans question Google over Gmail data practices GOP senators visited Moscow on July 4, warned Russia against meddling in 2018 election: report MORE (R-Kan.).

Both chambers' bills have bipartisan support.

Trump's new cybersecurity executive order, signed Thursday could also build momentum for the legislation.

 

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