Washington is on pins and needles.
The TV networks are expecting boffo ratings, and outraged Democrats are licking their chops.
But a crucial question still lingers as James Comey prepares for his very big Thursday on Capitol Hill: How much more damage will the ousted FBI director do to Donald Trump?
You have to say “more” here. Comey has already severely squeezed the cornered president, raising uncomfortable questions about obstruction of justice in the ever-deepening Russian-hacking probe. With Thursday’s hearing approaching, Comey seems uniquely poised to squeeze some more. As Virginia’s Mark Warner, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, put it on CNN yesterday: “Clearly, it would be very, very troubling if the president of the United States is interfering in investigations that … affect, potentially, the president and his closest associates.”
In a one-on-one battle of credibility, the meticulous ex-director starts with a distinct advantage over the truth-challenged president. Ask yourself, if one said it was day, and the other said it was night, which one would you believe?
So what about evidence and proof? Will Comey deliver his own written notes backing up the many media reports that Trump pressured him into dropping the Russia investigation? What other evidence has the fired director kept to himself until now? Knowing Comey, there must be something. He is a trained investigator with decades of law enforcement experience. If there are two things he knows, they are how to trap a weaseling target and how to build a compelling case.
No one can say for certain how far Comey will go. Some things he may save for his private session with the committee, some things he may hold back at the request of special counsel Robert Mueller.
This much is almost certain to be true: By Thursday afternoon, no one can blame anonymous sources or slanted media reports. The ex-FBI director will be speaking in public and under oath. It’s probably too much to expect that this will shake Trump’s hard-core 38 percent. But this isn’t: By Thursday night, a wounded president will be even more wounded, and an ousted FBI agent will still be on his feet.