Today on the Hill: Comey Firing Fallout Continues; USTR Nominee Cloture Vote

The fallout from President Trump’s firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey has yet to settle as further details continue to emerge about the reasoning behind President Trump’s decision to dismiss the longtime prosecutor. Multiple media outlets have reported that Comey had requested additional resources for the Bureau’s Russia probe shortly before his dismissal and that the President was upset with the conduct of that investigation. While many Republicans have offered concerns on the timing and reasoning behind the firing, most have backed President Trump and rejected calls for additional steps, such as the appointment of an independent prosecutor or commission.

Although Republicans will be eager to move on from the story, it is unlikely that they will be able to avoid additional media attention on the issue when the House returns to Washington next week. Democrats, for their part, have predictably been more forceful in pressing for additional resources to be used in the Russia probe, including by slowing regular legislative business through parliamentary procedure. A new round of developments is possible next week as Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice-Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) have invited Comey to testify in a closed hearing before the committee.

In floor action today, the Senate will hold a cloture vote on the nomination of Robert Lighthizer to be United States Trade Representative (USTR). The office traditionally plays a leading role in negotiating new foreign trade deals, and Lighthizer is considered to fit into the hawkish mold of President Trump in ensuring that trade agreements protect American manufacturing interests. That stance has led two Republicans, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Ben Sasse (R-NE), to oppose his nomination, but given that many Democrats back his calls for stricter trade enforcement, it is unlikely that his nomination will be blocked. A final up-or-down vote will likely slip to next week’s agenda.