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Former FBI director spoke with new special counsel and is cleared to testify before Senate panel

The special counsel investigating possible links between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign has cleared former FBI Director James Comey to testify before a congressional committee about his contacts with President Trump, according to an associate close to Comey.

Comey met with Robert S. Mueller III, whom the Justice Department appointed on May 17 to investigate any Russian ties to the Trump campaign, and Mueller said he had no problems with Comey's testifying, the associate said.             

Trump abruptly fired Comey as head of the FBI on May 9. The president later said in an interview on NBC News that he was concerned about the FBI investigation into what he called the "Russia thing." 

Comey reportedly wrote internal memos after his meetings with Trump. In one, he wrote that the president had requested he ease up on the FBI probe of Michael Flynn, who served as Trump's national security advisor until he was ousted in February for lying about his contacts with Russian officials.

The Senate Intelligence Committee announced on May 19 that Comey had agreed to testify after the Memorial Day holiday. The hearing has not been scheduled.

The FBI separately declined a request from the House Oversight Committee to turn over Comey's memos. The bureau said it would need to consult with Mueller before making any decisions.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the committee chairman, said in response that he would not push the matter.

"The focus of the committee's investigation is the independence of the FBI" and the events leading to Comey's firing, he wrote.

In a separate development, a senior Justice Department lawyer with experience in complex financial fraud investigations has agreed to join Mueller's investigation.

Andrew Weissman has led the fraud section at Justice, where he oversaw probes into corporate wrongdoing at Volkswagen and Takata. Weissman also is a veteran of the FBI.

Weissman is the highest-ranking Justice Department official to join the special counsel office being set up a few blocks from the main Justice building in downtown Washington.

Mueller also hired two colleagues from the WilmerHale law firm, where he worked, and brought on a former Justice Department spokesman, Peter Carr, to handle media inquiries.

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