US prepares for the political super bowl that is Comey’s hearing
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US prepares for the political super bowl that is Comey’s hearing

Most TV news channels will cover the hearing live in expectation of the viewership.

world Updated: Jun 08, 2017 00:34 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US President Donald Trump,Sacked FBI director James Comey,Senior Republican senator John McCain
File photo of former FBI director James Comey.(Reuters)

US President Donald Trump is expected to live tweet it, and some online betting sites are taking bets on words that he could use. And some bars in Washington are opening early on Thursday to provide patrons a big-game atmosphere with Russian vodka mixes and “FBI sandwiches”.

Sacked FBI director James Comey starts his testimony at an open hearing of the US senate intelligence committee at 10 am that day, which is being called the super bowl of US politics, a nod to the festival-scale celebration of the championship game of America’s National Football League.

Expectations are rising about the questioning by the panel, which is chaired by Richard Burr, a Republican senator, who has struck a smooth working relationship with Mark Warner, the top Democrat, and a commonality of purpose, to get to the bottom of the case.

Senior Republican senator John McCain, an outspoken critic of the president and someone who is unlikely to read from talking points provided by the party leadership, is also joining the committee for the hearing despite the fact he is not a member.

Most TV news channels will cover the hearing live in expectation of the viewership. The top three cable news channels — CNN, Fox News and MSNBC — had logged a combined 4 million viewership of the 2015 Benghazi hearing of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

“Come on... you know you want to watch the drama unfold this Thursday,” Shaw’s Tavern, a Washington bar posted on Facebook. It will open 30 minutes before the start of the hearing and will serve “$5 Stoli (Russian Stolichnaya) vodka flavours” and FBI — fried chicken breasts, bacon and iceberg lettuce — sandwiches.

The Partisan, another bar in Washington, will also open early for a “Comey hearing viewing party” and will have its “TVs tuned into the hearing and sound on full blast”. Libations on offer will include “The Last Word” and “Drop The Bomb” cocktails.

Comey will answer questions about his conversations with Trump, centred on the FBI’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and alleged collusion by Trump campaign, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was dismissed for concealing and mischaracterising his Russia links.

And Comey is guaranteed to be asked if he had indeed given Trump a clean chit as the president claimed. There are reports that the former top investigator is likely to deny ever going that far, directly contradicting the president, which could be extremely damaging for latter personally.

Asked about the upcoming testimony, Trump told reporters on Tuesday, “I wish him good luck.” No more. But chances are he will be glued to a TV set — he is an avid consumer of cable news — and might even be live-tweeting during the hearing to both rebut the former director and deny him the limelight.

Trump also has a speech scheduled for around noon, the announcement of which on Tuesday was almost immediately characterised as a ploy to divert viewers away from the hearing.

Since Comey’s sacking, the former FBI director’s associates have let it be known that Trump had actually asked him to drop the investigation against Flynn in a conversation that so unnerved him that he urged attorney general Jeff Sessions — his boss — to never leave him alone in a room with the president.

First Published: Jun 07, 2017 16:43 IST