Trump plans tanks and flyovers at Fourth of July celebration in Washington

U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania Trump wave from the Truman Balcony during a fireworks display celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

By Andy Sullivan and Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Monday that he plans to display battle tanks on Washington’s National Mall as part of a pumped-up Fourth of July celebration that will also feature flyovers by fighter jets and other displays of military prowess.

The military hardware is just one new element in a U.S. Independence Day pageant that will depart significantly from the nonpartisan, broadly patriotic programs that typically draw hundreds of thousands of people to the monuments in downtown Washington.

An M1 Abrams tank sits atop a flat car in a rail yard after U.S. President Donald Trump said tanks and other military hardware would be part of of a Fourth of July display in Washington, U.S., July 2, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Fogarty

An M1 Abrams tank sits atop a flat car in a rail yard after U.S. President Donald Trump said tanks and other military hardware would be part of of a Fourth of July display in Washington, U.S., July 2, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Fogarty

While past presidents have traditionally kept a low profile on July 4, Trump plans to deliver a speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

Also on the agenda are an extended fireworks display and flyovers by Air Force One, the custom Boeing 747 used by U.S. presidents, and the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels jet squadron.

“I’m going to say a few words, and we’re going to have planes going overhead,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “And we’re going to have tanks stationed outside.”

Democrats in Congress have accused Trump of hijacking the event to boost his re-election prospects in 2020. They have also questioned how much the event will cost the cash-strapped National Park Service.

Trump has pushed for a military parade in Washington since he marveled at the Bastille Day military parade in Paris in 2017. His administration postponed a parade that had been planned for Veterans Day in November 2018 after costs ballooned to $90 million, three times the initial estimate.

Trump said modern M1 Abrams tanks and World War Two-era Sherman tanks would both be on display. District of Columbia officials have said the heavy military equipment could damage city streets.

“You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks, so we have to put them in certain areas,” Trump said.

The antiwar group Code Pink said it had secured permits to fly a “Baby Trump” blimp, depicting the president in diapers, during his speech. “Babies need enormous amounts of attention and are unable to gauge the consequences of their behavior – just like Donald Trump,” co-founder Medea Benjamin said in a news release.

The Interior Department, which oversees the event, has not said how much the event will cost. Two fireworks firms will put on a 35-minute display for free, which the agency said was equal to a donation of $700,000.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan and Makini Brice; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Diane Craft and Peter Cooney)

Rolling Thunder veterans group makes final ride through Washington

USMC Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers (ret.) salutes motorcycle riders as they pass by during the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" during Memorial Day weekend to support veterans and call attention to POWs and MIAs, in Washington, U.S., May 26, 2019.REUTERS/Mike Theiler

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Rolling Thunder motorcycles that descend on Washington, D.C. every Memorial Day weekend made their final ride on Sunday, ending a three-decades-old tradition that was initially meant to serve to pay tribute to fallen and missing-in-action soldiers.

The veterans advocacy group, formed in 1987 by 73-year-old Vietnam veteran Artie Muller, got its name from a 1965 bombing campaign against North Vietnam dubbed “Operation Rolling Thunder.”

A motorcycle rider with American flag fluttering passes crowds during the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder "Ride for Freedom" during Memorial Day weekend to support veterans and call attention to POWs and MIAs, in Washington, U.S., May 26, 2019.REUTERS/Mike Theiler

A motorcycle rider with American flag fluttering passes crowds during the 32nd Annual, and possibly final, Rolling Thunder “Ride for Freedom” during Memorial Day weekend to support veterans and call attention to POWs and MIAs, in Washington, U.S., May 26, 2019.REUTERS/Mike Theiler

President Donald Trump gave the group a shout out on Twitter on Sunday, where he pledged that the annual rides in Washington would continue.

“The Great Patriots of Rolling Thunder WILL be coming back to Washington, D.C. next year, & hopefully for many years to come,” Trump wrote.

For years, the group has become synonymous with the annual Memorial Day celebration in the nation’s capital, where thousands of motorcycles meet in the Pentagon parking lot and continue their ride across the Memorial Bridge toward the National Mall.

Late last year, the group announced it would be making this May its final ride, citing a lack of cooperation by law enforcement and rising costs of permits.

The Defense Department told ABC News that they support peaceful demonstrations and were prepared to support the 2019 Rolling Thunder ride.

In an interview with Reuters TV, Muller said that while this will be the final ride, the event will also mark the beginning of a new chapter.

“We’re not really talking about a legacy here because we’re not going away. We’re just spreading out and we hope to get stronger. That’s what our idea is on this, so coast to coast — North, South, Midwest,” Muller said.

(Reporting by Temis Tormo in Washington; Writing by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

The Procedural Vote – Special Edition, Washington, D.C.

by Billye Brim | Oct 6, 2018

The Procedural Vote

Four of us left our hotel at 8 AM Friday morning and arrived early at the private entry door where we waited until 9 to get in.

Our special passes were issued by high-ranking Senators. Two of them, whose names are most-associated with these proceedings entered the room where 150 or so of us were gathered. They asked that we not record or take pictures. So—I will not reveal their names. But one of them said to us, “I believe in the power of prayer. Don’t pay so much attention to what is happening on the floor. But keep focused on prayer as you ask that the Lord’s will be done.”

Inside the Senate Gallery, there was decorum. No shouting. On both sides of the Gallery, people behaved with respect. The prayer on the Republican side where we sat was amazing. The people were amazing. We were instructed that we could not react to anything said on the floor. Nor could we react to the outcome of the vote. Everyone on both sides respected the place. The atmosphere was one of peace. Even before any speeches or any votes. I believe the powers of the air were bound and muted by the strong army of believers here in D.C. and there where you are. The Prayer Force all across America and even the world was in action.

The Mobs
and
The Prayer Force

I wasn’t going to give any “ink” to the mobs but I want you to see where the real power was—in the praying people. And this morning (Saturday, October 6,) I was reading in Acts and saw that the enemy’s M.O. has been operating in MOBS for centuries.

The rabble-rousers are not affecting things in the magnitude the media is portraying. Wherever they are, cameras are following them. The press is paying little or no attention to the many, many praying people who are here.

Max is here. He did not have a Gallery pass. He was praying in Grassley’s office on Friday with about 150 believers he said were from across America. He prayed closely with one family which consisted of a mother and her 15-year old son and his grandfather. The husband and father is overseas in the military serving our country. The family has a strong military heritage. They gave Max the shirt you see him wearing in the attached photograph.

When this family group decided to walk the halls praying, and wearing these t-shirts, the 15-year old said to Max, “Walk with me, Uncle.” The grandfather, the son, and Max followed the women in their little group. A scruffy looking man (Max’s description) walked up to the boy and hit him full force in the stomach. The young man fell to the ground in pain. The Capitol Police came up to arrest the man (and incidentally they want to be arrested). However, the mother said that she didn’t want to press charges and that they would pray for the man.

Greater Is He That Is In Us
Than he that is in the world.

On Thursday we met other praying people in Senator Grassley’s office when the mob decided to take over the halls. Hannah caught a video of the leader outside Grassley’s office door yelling that we didn’t have any black people inside (Facebook video – click here). She did not know that at that very moment, the Lord had anointed a young black woman inside to lead us in prayer. I was impressed by the Power of the Holy Spirit upon her as she led in a loud voice. Her words were those of Authority, Power, and Dominion. I was thrilled at who the Lord used so mightily to put to naught the accusatory words being shouted outside the door. The adversary knew what was happening inside and that he was defeated. (Instagram video – click here)

We are awaiting now (Saturday morning) word for when the vote will take place.

Again, the Lord is providing great Gallery seats for us. But as I said, wherever you are, we all meet at the Right Hand of the Father from where we operate.

Shalom and Blessings
Love in Him
Billye Brim

Lincoln Memorial in Washington defaced with expletive

Tourists walks past a papered-over column where a vandal scrawled obscene graffiti in spray paint on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, U.S. August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Lincoln Memorial in the U.S. capital was spray painted with expletive graffiti that was discovered on Tuesday, days after violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, over an American Civil War-era monument.

The graffiti appeared to read “f*** law” spray painted in red on a column of the memorial to Abraham Lincoln, the American president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in the United States.

The National Park Service said in a statement that it was removing the graffiti from the monument and a Smithsonian Institution directional sign blocks away that was also vandalized with spray paint.

The U.S. Park Police said in the statement that they were investigating.

The graffiti marks the second time this year that the Lincoln Memorial, one of Washington, D.C.’s major tourist attractions, was defaced. In February, the monument to Lincoln, the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial, were vandalized with a marker pen.

The Park Service said that a monument preservation crew was removing the graffiti at the Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday using a mild paint stripper.

A Park Service photo showed the graffiti on a column of the memorial, and Twitter erupted with opinions on whether it said “law” or “Islam.”

“Could the person who defaced the Lincoln Memorial please come back and write more clearly so we know who to be mad at,” comedy writer Chase Mitchell wrote on Twitter.

Lincoln was president during the 1861-65 Civil War, and the vandalism was found days after deadly weekend violence at a far-right rally at a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The unrest has intensified a national debate over whether monuments to the pro-slavery Confederacy are symbols of heritage or hate.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Marcy Nicholson)

Washington refocuses on tax; anti-tax activist sees bill in September

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, speaks before the dedication of a statue of the late Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington February 11, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Ginger Gibson and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressional Republicans are ramping up discussions on overhauling the U.S. tax code that a prominent Republican anti-tax advocate said on Wednesday will produce a bill by September with a hefty corporate tax cut.

Grover Norquist, head of the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform and a lobbyist close to Republican leaders, said a “Big Six” group of Republican tax decision-makers was targeting the end of this month for producing a basic framework for a bill to be introduced in September.

“The House, the White House and the Senate have been meeting for a couple months. They’ll have a package in September,” said Norquist, a conservative tax and small-government activist who has met with Big Six members.

The group met on Wednesday evening and two members who emerged 45 minutes later said they were united on tax principles but offered no comment on whether they had agreed to a framework.

“We’re all on one page, on one unified page,” White House economic adviser Gary Cohn said.

House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady also told reporters there was unity and to expect a statement in coming days.

Central to the discussion is the 35 percent corporate income tax rate, how much it can be cut and whether a cut can be made permanent. The White House wants to slash the rate to 15 percent for seven years, while congressional Republicans are trying to settle on a permanent rate that does not increase the deficit.

President Donald Trump and his representatives on the Big Six – Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – are “really excited about the 15 percent rate” for corporations, Norquist said.

The congressional Big Six members are Brady, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch.

Norquist has played a key role in tax negotiations in Washington for years.

Trump is insisting on lowering the tax rate for pass-through businesses, now taxed at the top individual tax code rate, to 15 percent, Norquist said.

The Big Six agree that Trump’s 15 percent corporate rate cannot be achieved on a permanent basis without adding to the federal deficit, administration officials said.

Such a steep tax rate cut would mean a revenue loss of more than $2 trillion over a decade, independent analysts say.

To solve the deficit issue, the White House is open to making the 15 percent rate temporary, with an expiration in seven years, Norquist said. That would conflict with Republicans in Congress who want a permanent tax overhaul, but it would ensure rates would not have to be renewed during Trump’s presidency.

Mnuchin said on Wednesday morning that the administration would be “sensitive to increasing the debt.”

“We are very close to releasing a detailed plan and I can assure you that we believe that detailed plan will be responsible on the impact on the economy and the cost to the debt,” he said.

Under current law, companies adhere to complex depreciation schedules for how long it takes for equipment to wear out and lose value.

Business groups have called for “100 percent expensing,” a policy that would let companies write off the entire price of equipment in the year of purchase. Former President Barack Obama pushed for temporary 100 percent expensing as a economic stimulus to help reverse the recession when he took office.

The White House is considering a three-year window to allow 100 percent expensing, Norquist said. After the three years, the rate would return to 50 percent, which is the current law.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Dan Grebler and Bill Trott)

Appeals court blocks D.C. law restricting gun rights

FILE PHOTO: Various automatic handguns are shown in the weapons vault during a media open house at the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) National Laboratory Center in Beltsville, Maryland June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday blocked a gun regulation in Washington, D.C., that limited the right to carry a handgun in public to those with a special need for self-defense, handing a victory to gun rights advocates.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s 2-1 ruling struck down the local government’s third major attempt in 40 years to limit handgun rights, citing what it said was scant but clear guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court on the right to bear arms.

The District of Columbia may appeal the three-judge panel’s ruling to the full appeals court, potentially a more favorable audience as seven of its 11 members were appointed by Democratic presidents. All three of the panel members involved in Tuesday’s ruling are Republican appointees.

Judge Thomas Griffith, writing the majority opinion, said constitutional challenges to gun laws “create peculiar puzzles for the courts,” noting that the U.S. Supreme Court’s first in-depth review “is younger than the first iPhone.”

That 2008 ruling in a landmark case called District of Columbia v. Heller struck down a D.C. law that banned all handgun possession in the city. It was a major victory for supporters of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects gun ownership rights.

The city council tried again to ban carrying weapons, a law that was also struck down by the courts, and now is trying a third time to restrict the right to carry handguns in the city.

Griffith wrote that the Supreme Court’s Heller ruling made it clear that “the Second Amendment erects some absolute barriers that no gun law may breach.”

Some ambiguity exists due to the first 13 words of the Second Amendment, which reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The D.C. law that is being challenged directs the police chief to create rules limiting those who can carry handguns to people showing good reason to need one.

Writing a dissenting opinion, Judge Karen Henderson cited case law finding that the “core” right to bear arms is for self-defense inside the home.

“Regulations restricting public carrying are all the more compelling in a geographically small but heavily populated urban area like the District,” Henderson said.

The National Rifle Association and the office of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had no immediate comment.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Tom Brown)

Trump denies obstructing FBI probe, says has no tapes of talks with Comey

U.S. President Donald Trump takes the stage for a rally at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S. June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Scott Morgan

By Amanda Becker and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he had not obstructed the FBI’s probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and had not recorded his conversations with former FBI chief James Comey.

Comey was leading the investigation into allegations Russia tried to sway the election toward Trump and the possibility Trump associates colluded with Moscow when the president fired him on May 9, sparking a political firestorm.

“Look there has been no obstruction, there has been no collusion,” Trump told Fox News Channel in an interview set to air on Friday. Fox released a partial transcript of the interview on Thursday.

The former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation testified before a Senate committee that Trump had asked him to drop a probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s alleged ties to Russia.

Earlier on Thursday, Trump said he did not make and does not possess any tapes of his conversations with Comey, after suggesting last month he might have recordings that could undercut Comey’s description of events.

“I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Lawmakers investigating allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election had asked the White House for any such recordings.

Shortly after dismissing Comey, Trump mentioned the possibility of tapes in a Twitter post.

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump tweeted on May 12.

Allegations of ties to Russia have cast a shadow over Trump’s first five months in office, distracting from attempts by his fellow Republicans in Congress to overhaul the U.S. healthcare and tax systems.

Trump has privately told aides that the threat of the existence of tapes forced Comey to tell the truth in his recent testimony, a source familiar with the situation said.

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said Trump still had questions to answer about possible tapes.

“If the president had no tapes, why did he suggest otherwise? Did he seek to mislead the public? Was he trying to intimidate or silence James Comey? And if so, did he take other steps to discourage potential witnesses from speaking out?” Schiff said in a statement.

CNN reported on Thursday that two top U.S. intelligence officials told investigators Trump suggested they publicly deny any collusion between his campaign and Russia, but that they did not feel he had ordered them to do so.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers met separately last week with investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to CNN.

The two officials said they were surprised at Trump’s suggestion and found their interactions with him odd and uncomfortable, but they did not act on the president’s requests, CNN reported, citing sources familiar with their accounts.

Reuters was unable to verify the CNN report.

In his interview with Fox, Trump expressed concern about what he described as the close relationship between Comey and Mueller, who was appointed to take over the investigation after Comey was fired.

“Well he’s very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome,” Trump said, according to the Fox transcript.

The Kremlin has denied U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Moscow tried to tilt the election in Trump’s favor, using such means as hacking into the emails of senior Democrats.

Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion.

(Additional reporting by Tim Ahmann, Steve Holland, Patricia Zengerle and Susan Heavey; Writing by Alistair Bell and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Peter Cooney and Paul Tait)

Three arrested at Trump inauguration sue DC over ‘police abuse’

File Photo - Protesters demonstrating against U.S. President Donald Trump take cover as they are hit by pepper spray by police on the sidelines of the inauguration in Washington, DC, U.S. on January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif/File Photo

(Reuters) – The American Civil Liberties Union sued police in the nation’s capital on Wednesday on behalf of three people detained during the U.S. presidential inauguration, claiming they were subjected to unconstitutional arrests, excessive force and police abuse.

More than 200 people were arrested in Washington in January after some black-clad activists among those protesting Donald Trump’s swearing-in clashed with police a few blocks from the White House, in an outburst of violence rare for an inauguration.

The lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police Department, the District of Columbia and individual officers claims the plaintiffs broke no laws at the protests and endured abuses including being pepper-sprayed and denied food and water for hours.

The plaintiffs include two individuals who came to the District of Columbia to express their views concerning the inauguration and a photojournalist who covered the demonstrations.

“The MPD’s extreme tactics against members of the public, including journalists, demonstrators, and observers, were unjustifiable and unconstitutional,” Scott Michelman, senior staff attorney for the ACLU-DC, said in a statement.

Since Trump’s election win, a number of demonstrations in U.S. cities have highlighted strong discontent over his comments and policy positions toward a wide range of groups, including Mexican immigrants, Muslims, the disabled and environmentalists.

Washington’s police department said in a statement “all instances of use of force by officers and allegations of misconduct at the inauguration will be fully investigated,” and that it will support the legal process.

It added officers worked diligently to protect the rights of thousands who came to the inauguration to peacefully express their views.

“Unfortunately, there was another group of individuals who chose to engage in criminal acts, destroying property and hurling projectiles, injuring at least six officers. These individuals were ultimately arrested for their criminal actions,” it said.

The lawsuit says photojournalist Shay Horse was pepper-sprayed while taking photographs and subjected to unjustified, invasive body probes.

It also said demonstrator Elizabeth Lagesse was peacefully protesting when she was arrested and handcuffed so tightly that her wrists bled.

(This story corrects number of people suing Washington D.C. in headline and paragraphs 1 and 4.)

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Matthew Lewis)

Turkish leader’s security officers charged with assault in Washington

The Turkish flag flies over the the Turkish Ambassador's residence in Washington, U.S., June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors have charged a dozen Turkish security and police officers with assault after an attack on protesters in Washington during Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the U.S. capital last month, officials said on Thursday.

The May 16 skirmish, caught on video, left nine protesters injured outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence and further strained ties at a time when the NATO allies are in sharp disagreement over policy in Syria.

The charges against some members of Erdogan’s security detail send a clear message that the United States “does not tolerate individuals who use intimidation and violence to stifle freedom of speech and legitimate political expression,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

Turkey condemned the charges and said the Turkish citizens, who left the country with Erdogan, should not be held responsible for the incident.

“This decision taken by U.S. authorities is wrong, biased and lacks legal basis,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The brawl in front of the Turkish ambassador’s residence was caused by the failure of local security authorities to take necessary measures.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert would not say on Thursday whether an extradition request would be made.

The security officers are no longer protected by the immunity extended to them during Erdogan’s recent visit, the State Department said.

“We will weigh additional actions,” Nauert told reporters.

Washington officials announcing the charges, which were filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, described the treatment of the protesters as an attack on U.S. values. Some of the protesters were associated with the Armenian National Committee of America and accuse Erdogan of running a politically repressive government.

A video posted online showed men in dark suits chasing protesters and punching and kicking them as Washington police struggled to intervene.

“If they attempt to enter the United States, they will be arrested,” Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham said of the security officers charged in the case.

Newsham said there was no probable cause to arrest Erdogan, who watched the confrontation unfold from a nearby car.

Eighteen people have now been charged in the incident, including two Canadians and four Americans, according to prosecutors.

Two men were arrested on Wednesday. Sinan Narin of Virginia faces a charge of felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor assault, and Eyup Yildirim of New Jersey faces two charges of felony assault and a misdemeanor assault charge.

(Reporting by Tom Ramstack; Additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham in Washington, Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara and David Dolan in Istanbul; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Andrew Hay and Peter Cooney)

Comey’s caution to meet Trump’s tweets in Russia hearing

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump (L) speaks in Ypilanti Township, Michigan March 15, 2017 and FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., May 3, 2017 in a combination of file photos. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By Warren Strobel and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former FBI Director James Comey will tell Congress on Thursday that President Donald Trump pressed him repeatedly to halt a probe into his ex-national security adviser’s ties with Russia and to declare publicly that Trump himself was not under investigation.

Comey’s testimony in the most widely anticipated congressional hearing in years will put at center stage a high-stakes clash between two men with vastly different personas.

The outcome could have significant repercussions for Trump’s 139-day-old presidency as special counsel Robert Mueller and multiple congressional committees investigate whether Trump’s campaign team colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. The White House and Russia deny any collusion occurred.

In written testimony released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Comey quoted Trump as telling him the Russia investigation was a “cloud” impairing his ability to operate as president.

Comey said in his statement that in a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office on Feb.14, Trump asked him to drop an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn that is part of a wider probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Comey quoted Trump as saying.

Comey also said Trump told him during a one-on-one dinner on Jan. 27 that he needed “loyalty.”

Trump fired the FBI chief on May 9, setting off a political firestorm, and he has since called Comey a “showboat” and a “grandstander.”

Democrats, along with some Republicans, on the committee will use the hearing on Thursday to press for further details of any attempts by Trump to blunt the Russia investigation.

“I’m very concerned about the implication that Comey keeping his job was dependent on his loyalty or, in Comey’s words, developing a ‘patronage relationship.’ That is another way the President sought to impede the investigation,” Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said in a comment emailed to Reuters.

Senator Susan Collins, a Republican member of the panel, said earlier this week: “I want to know more also about the president’s interactions with Mr. Comey with regard to the investigation into Michael Flynn. … It makes a big difference what the exact words were, the tone of the president, the context of the conversation.”

But Republican Senator Richard Burr, the panel’s chairman, sought to downplay Comey’s “loyalty” remark, saying: “I don’t think it’s wrong to ask for loyalty from anybody in an administration.”

Trump’s attorney, Marc Kasowitz, released a statement on Wednesday saying the president felt “totally vindicated” by Comey’s acknowledgement that he had told Trump on three occasions that he was not personally under investigation.

Despite landing himself in other political controversies, including his handling of the FBI investigation of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server, Comey is widely seen as cautious and fact-oriented.

“One thing you don’t ever hear about him is (that) people don’t think he tells the truth. He brings a lot of credibility,” said Benjamin Wittes, a Comey confidant and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Less than five months into office, Trump has proven himself to be impulsive and visceral, turning to Twitter to lambaste perceived adversaries in 140 characters or less.

AWKWARD RELATIONSHIP

As Comey’s written testimony underscored, he and the U.S. president had an awkward, topsy-turvy relationship.

Then-candidate Trump excoriated Comey last summer for deciding not to prosecute Clinton over her handling of government emails, then praised him when he reopened the issue in October just days before the election.

Trump initially kept Comey on as FBI director, and publicly embraced him at a January White House event. Two days after firing him, Trump said it was because of “this Russia thing.”

Trump is widely expected to use his Twitter account, which lists 31.8 million followers, to counterpunch at Comey on Thursday – perhaps even in real time.

The Republican president’s unconstrained use of Twitter has confounded allies and skeptics alike.

“Every time you tweet, it makes it harder on all of us who are trying to help you. I don’t think you did anything wrong. Don’t get in the way of an investigation that could actually clear you,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News on Wednesday.

Despite the high drama, Comey is not expected to drop any major new bombshells, or directly accuse Trump of trying to obstruct justice by asking him to halt the FBI probe of Flynn.

He is also unlikely to reveal new details of the ongoing Russia investigation. U.S. law enforcement officials said Comey had discussed his testimony with Mueller’s investigative team to ensure it did not interfere with the special counsel’s probe.

“The one thing you know he’s not going to do, you know he’s not going to reach a conclusion (on the legality of Trump’s actions) and he’s not going to talk about the underlying investigation,” said Stephen Ryan, a former federal prosecutor and congressional investigator now at the McDermott, Will & Emery law firm.

Still, Ryan said the testimony, and senators’ questions, would be historic. The closest comparison, he said, was the appearance 44 years ago of President Richard Nixon’s White House counsel John Dean, who, after being fired by Nixon, gave damning testimony in 1973 to the Senate Watergate Committee.

(Additional reporting by John Walcott; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Peter Cooney)