After Standoff, Comey and Republicans Come to Agreement Over Congressional Testimony

Lawyers for the former FBI director filed a brief in court saying he had reached an ‘acceptable accommodation’ that would allow him to testify in a closed door hearing

Former FBI director James Comey has reached an agreement with House Republicans, ending a standoff over whether he would appear in front of Congress to discuss his role in law-enforcement decisions during the 2016 election.

Lawyers for Mr. Comey filed a brief in court on Sunday saying he had reached an “acceptable accommodation” that would allow for the former FBI director to testify in a closed door hearing on Friday.

The agreement will make Mr. Comey’s testimony in front of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees public within 24 hours of his appearance. A representative of the FBI will also be present to advise on any issues of confidentiality and legal privilege, according to Mr. Comey’s attorney. In exchange, the GOP-led committees will withdraw a subpoena demanding his testimony.

Mr. Comey had been pushing for a public appearance rather than a closed-door hearing. He said that he was concerned about leaks and wanted the American people to be able to hear his testimony.

The Minority Leader’s Only Job

House Republicans are about to discover the pain of irrelevance.

Mr. McCarthy is no policy wonk, preferring to focus on the electoral details of winning seats. That’s more important than policy when you’re in the minority since the media won’t report what the GOP proposes in any case. House Republicans can play important roles in defending Trump Administration officials, when warranted, against Democratic excess.

But the first—the only—job of a House minority is to become a majority. Their best chance will be 2020 when freshman Democrats are most vulnerable as they run for re-election the first time. Defeat enough of them and Mr. McCarthy could be Mr. Speaker.

The Mueller confrontation that Republicans were trying to avoid has just arrived

Up until this point, Republicans had given Trump the benefit of the doubt that he wouldn’t launch a constitutional crisis. From their perspective, why take action and cause a confrontation with the president (and jeopardize their agenda) if they don’t absolutely have to?

Now they may have to.

.. He even hinted in a July interview with the New York Times that he’d fire Mueller if the independent investigation started looking into his finances.

.. Firing Sessions is one of the clearest paths for the president to get rid of the special counsel, who technically answers to the Justice Department. And that got some Republicans’ attention.

“There will be holy hell to pay,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) warned Trump via reporters in July of what would happen if the president fired Sessions. A few weeks later, two pairs of bipartisan senators unveiled legislation to protect Mueller

.. “I can’t imagine any administration taking a move like that,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters in October.

.. But this revelation is more concrete than news over the summer. Trump didn’t just think about firing Mueller, he moved to do it. According to The Post’s Rosalind Helderman and Josh Dawsey, discussions were had and meetings were held by his aides to try to get him to back off.

.. Or, they just might not be interested in a confrontation with the president.

.. There is no serious bipartisan bill to protect Mueller in the House of Representatives either, where some vocal Republican lawmakers are instead saying Mueller should step down because of what they allege are various levels of bias.

.. Democrats involved in Congress’s Russia investigation were so worried by Republicans’ shrugs about protecting Mueller that in December Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, gave a speech warning a “constitutional crisis” would happen if Trump fired Mueller while Congress was gone.

.. But either way, the confrontation with the president that Republicans were trying to avoid has just landed on their doorstep.

Ryan’s Leadership Is Tested by GOP’s Civil War on Health Bill

The test for Mr. Ryan is whether he can make the leap from serving as the architect of conservative policy, a role he played for years as the party’s leading budget author, to the more difficult role of guiding legislation into law. The task is much tougher now than when Republicans passed bills with the knowledge that a Democratic president would veto them.

.. GOP lawmakers say that Mr. Ryan’s style of building support relies more on PowerPoint presentations than more muscular forms of persuasion. “It’s not Paul Ryan’s style to ‘hot box’ people,” said House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), one of Mr. Ryan’s allies. “In some previous regimes, there was a lot of arm twisting. With Paul Ryan, you get a lot of persuading and listening.”

.. If his powers of persuasion come up short, it will be Mr. Ryan’s most high-profile stumble as speaker and a sign that the fractious House GOP conference is beyond his control.

.. He has sought their input more often and at earlier stages of developing legislation, and he has allowed conservatives to hold more seats in the higher echelons of House GOP leadership meetings. He publicly defers to committees and frequently appears on television to give vulnerable Republicans cover on the toughest bills.

.. “If you get 85% of what you want, that’s pretty darn good,” he said.