Legal Analyst: What to expect during former FBI director James Comey hearing before Senate committee

Posted at 3:19 AM, Jun 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-08 09:02:09-04

Former FBI Director James Comey detailed his meetings with President Trump in a seven-page statement. The document release came twenty-four hours before his testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It's a move ABC Action News legal analyst Jeffery Swartz says it rare.

The statement details how Comey felt compelled to document all personal interactions with President Trump, something he says he never did with former President Obama.

Swartz says Comey will open the hearing by reading the statement. He anticipates Republicans and Democrats will have plenty of follow up questions.

"I believe the Republicans will center on why didn't you report this sooner,  why didn't you tell other people about it?" said Swartz.

How will the proceeding take place tomorrow?

James Comey will give his prepared opening statement, then members of the committee, typically rotating by seniority, will begin asking questions. 

Comey claims during his February 14 meeting, President Trump asked him to drop the investigation into former National Security advisor Michael Flynn.

After speaking with FBI leadership, Comey says the request was "closely held" until they could figure out what to do with it. He claims he didn't think at the time President Trump was referring to the broader Russian investigation.

How does the impeachment process work?

The House of Representative Judiciary committee investigates and determines if there are high crimes and misdemeanors, which are whatever Congress believes them to be.

If the House votes by majority to impeach the president, it moves to the Senate for a trial. Once in the Senate, the person presiding is the Chief Justice of Supreme Court of the United States. It would take a 2/3 majority of the senators to remove the President. If they find him guilty on the bills of impeachment he is removed from office and the Vice President takes his place. The new President is then given the opportunity, under the 25th amendment to nominate a vice president, which is subject to confirmation by 2/3rds of the U.S. Senate.

What is the likelihood of impeachment?

Swartz says the House of Representative Judiciary committee would be the ultimate deciding factor as to whether a crime was committed. There are no certain guidelines that determine that, just a majority vote. He says the odds of impeachment are minimal unless there is an absolute smoking gun that concludes President Trump's campaign was colluding or coordinating against efforts with the Russians. 

"Then the Republicans would really have no choice because they would be looking at a wave that would sweep them right out of office," said Swartz.

Will we see the James Comey's memos during the hearing?

Swartz does not think we will see the entire memo during the hearing. The statement gives an idea of what was said during the meetings, which in return give us an idea what's in the memo. Swartz believes the memos will be much more detailed with more information.