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AP

Jim Comey, who at 6 foot 8 has at least five inches on Donald Trump, has loomed over his campaign and presidency for months — first through his bombshell statements about Hillary's email, then by doggedly pursuing the Russia investigation and eventually getting fired for his zeal.

Next week, Comey comes out of the shadows, with Senate Intelligence Committee testimony scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday that promises to be the most gripping television to come off of Capitol Hill since the Clinton impeachment hearings or Watergate.

Leaks about Comey's conclusion that Trump was pressuring him, and his real-time documentation in potentially devastating memos, has the White House and its allies worried that this could be their worst week since taking office. The signs of worry:

  • The White House floated a trial balloon about invoking executive privilege to block Comey's testimony, but quickly popped it — two officials tell the N.Y. Times' Michael Schmidt that Trump doesn't plan to go that route. White House officials realized the optics were terrible: It'd look like they had something to hide. Plus Trump aides realize executive privilege isn't absolute — so it wasn't a slam dunk, anyway. And even if the claim stopped Comey's testimony, it couldn't stop a free, fired man from just walking out and giving an interview or a press conference.
  • Fight Club: Trump is scrambling to set up an outside war camp — possibly run by former campaign operatives David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski — to battle Comey's charges. A top official tells me it's hard to bring these guys inside because of their reputations and styles. So one option, reported last night by Fox's Ed Henry, is an outside group set up as a 501(c)4 nonprofit. A Trump aide told me it'd be a way to get the campaign band back together in time of need.
  • The Comey chaos is making staff changes extremely difficult, even though Trump continues to ruminate to friends about his lineup. Top official, beginning with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, are ensnarled as possible witnesses. Plus, Trump needs more, not less, internal help. On the flip side, officials are having a difficult time finding people who are willing to pay for — or can afford — the hundreds of thousands in legal bills they are likely to incur from joining a White House under investigation.

Quote of the week, from Jeremy Bash to Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC: "Pro tip: If you want to exert executive privilege, don't fire the guy."

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Go deeper

13 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.