Ousted FBI Director James Comey will have the nation’s attention on Thursday when he appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee to deliver the most anticipated congressional testimony in years.

Comey is expected to answer questions about the explosive allegations that President Trump pressured him to drop the FBI’s investigation into former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn as part of the bureau’s larger probe into Russian election meddling.

He’s also likely to be asked about The New York Times report that said Trump asked for his loyalty during a private dinner at the White House earlier this year.

It’ll be the first public appearance by Comey since Trump fired him last month, a move that unnerved lawmakers in both parties.

{mosads}The White House initially cited a memo authored by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as the reason for his firing. The memo faulted Comey for his handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State. But Trump, in an interview with NBC News two days later, tied Comey’s firing to the ongoing FBI probe of whether his presidential campaign had improper contacts with Russian officials in 2016.

“And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story; it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,’ ” Trump said.

Comey is set to testify publicly at 10 a.m. Thursday and then will speak with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session starting at 1 p.m. 

It’s unclear whether Trump might try to invoke executive privilege to stop Comey from testifying. 

White House press secretary Sean Spicer didn’t rule it out during his Friday briefing, saying that the hearing must be “reviewed” by the White House counsel’s office. 

“I have not spoken to counsel yet. I don’t know how they’re going to respond,” he said.

There is skepticism among legal experts that executive privilege could be successfully invoked, given that Comey is now a private citizen who wants to testify and because Trump has already publicly discussed their conversations in the NBC interview and in tweets.

Rosenstein is also expected to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, a day before Comey. He’s among the listed witnesses for a hearing about renewing expiring provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

It will be Rosenstein’s first public appearance since privately briefing lawmakers on Capitol Hill about Comey’s firing last month. 

Saudi Arabia arms deal

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is expected to force a vote on a resolution disapproving of Trump’s $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia. 

His resolution was co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Al Franken (Minn.). The three senators want to block the proposed sale of equipment and weapons systems used by the Royal Saudi Air Force because they think it would exacerbate the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The push comes after Trump signed the deal during his visit to Saudi Arabia last month. Any senator can force a vote on international weapons sales using a provision of the Arms Export Control Act.

Murphy said the resolution would target the weapons used in the Yemen campaign and therefore would only apply to part of the arms sale. 

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) predicted that the resolution wouldn’t prevail. 

“I think most of the people on the committee and in the Senate support those sales,” Corker told reporters before the Senate left for the Memorial Day recess. 

A similar measure failed overwhelmingly last year to block then-President Barack Obama’s plans for a $1.15 billion sale of military equipment to Saudi Arabia by a 71-27 vote.

Before the vote on the Saudi Arabia arms sale, the Senate is expected to consider a noncontroversial resolution when it returns on Monday regarding the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. 

Trump also visited Jerusalem during his first overseas trip as president, though his administration announced last week that for now it will not fulfill a campaign pledge to relocate the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

The Senate is also scheduled to consider the nomination of Courtney Elwood as CIA general counsel on Tuesday.

Oversight gavel

The House Steering Committee, which determines committee assignments, is expected to meet this week to select a replacement for departing Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

Members of the Steering Committee told The Hill that they expect to meet sometime this week, though a date has not officially been set. 

Chaffetz plans to step down from Congress at the end of this month, creating an early vacancy for the high-profile post. 

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) has not formally launched a candidacy for the Oversight gavel but has been in contact with Steering Committee members about the job. He’s considered a shoo-in to be the next chairman if he wants it.

The former prosecutor proved himself to GOP leaders while chairing the panel that investigated the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The committee’s work helped uncover Clinton’s use of a private email server, which persistently dogged her 2016 presidential campaign. 

Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.), who’s 18th in seniority on the Oversight Committee, is the only lawmaker so far to officially announce a bid, but he is considered a long shot. 

Dodd-Frank rewrite

The House will consider sweeping legislation to wind back the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law enacted under Obama in the wake of the financial crisis.

The bill, titled the Financial Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs (CHOICE) Act, would allow banks to opt out of Dodd-Frank requirements if they hold enough money and would limit federal stress tests of major banks to every two years. 

It would also overhaul the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created by Dodd-Frank, to limit its power to enforcing pre-existing consumer protection laws and make its budget subject to Congress through the annual appropriations process.

GOP leaders reached a deal before the Memorial Day recess to eliminate a provision that would have repealed a cap on fees charged to retailers by credit card companies. The provision could have potentially jeopardized Republican support for the legislation, but its removal means floor passage is expected to move forward along traditional party lines.

Victory for House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) could be short-lived given that the legislation is likely to meet resistance in the Senate. Members of the Senate Banking Committee have indicated that they prefer a smaller, more limited bill to help community banks instead of wide-reaching legislation. 

The House is also expected to vote on a bill this week authored by Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) to authorize waivers from polygraph tests used to screen Customs and Border Protection job candidates.

— Scott Wong and Sylvan Lane contributed.

Tags Al Franken Barack Obama Bob Corker Chris Murphy Hillary Clinton Jason Chaffetz Rand Paul Trey Gowdy

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