Former FBI Director James Comey has refused a bipartisan invitation by Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-V.A.) to testify before the Senate intelligence committee in a closed session next Tuesday.
Sen. Warner made the announcement on Friday during an interview with MSNBC.
"We just heard from the director that he's not able to make Tuesday," Warner would later tell CNN. "It's my hope that that we will be able to find a time. I think it's really important that the Congress, and more broadly the American people, hear Director Comey's side of the story."
Comey’s decision comes as the Trump administration ramps up its rhetoric against the ousted FBI director.
In an impromptu interview with NBC’s Lester Holt on Tuesday night, Trump characterized Comey as a "grandstander" and a "showboat."
The president’s severe criticism was further underscored by White House deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders who said that both the president "and the rest of the FBI" had lost confidence in Comey. Sanders went on to say that she had heard accounts from "countless members" of the bureau that painted Comey in a negative light.
Adding fuel to a firestorm, Trump did his best imitation of a disgruntled Chicago mob boss, threatening the country’s former top law enforcement official in a tweet that flirted with self-incrimination:
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Earlier in the week, Trump (rightly) ripped Democrats for their hypocritical defense of Comey, whose head they had been calling for since he first laid out the details of Hillary Clinton's gross negligence in handling classified information, and said that Comey "will be replaced by someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI."
Despite the administration’s aggressive posturing and vindictive handling of the former director (or because of it), senior officials in federal law enforcement have come out and actively rebutted Trump’s descriptions of Comey as an unprofessional agent.
"I hold Director Comey in the absolute highest regard. I have the highest respect for his considerable abilities and his integrity," acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the Senate intelligence committee Friday. "[Comey enjoyed] broad support within the FBI and still does to this day. The majority, the vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep, positive connection to Director Comey."
While unverified rumors have swirled between D.C. insiders about the "anonymous" source of recent leaks provided to The New York Times detailing an alleged loyalty pledge that Trump supposedly presented to Comey at a dinner one week after his inauguration, Comey has yet to publicly comment on the brewing scandal engulfing the White House.
One day after his firing, Comey signaled his desire to stay silent in a farewell letter penned to fellow agents, friends, and family.
"I have long believed that a President can fire an FBI Director for any reason, or for no reason at all. I'm not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed," he wrote. "I hope you won't either. It is done, and I will be fine, although I will miss you and the mission deeply."
Given the circumstances, Comey’s letter is nothing short of honorable. Read the full letter here.