Comey’s testimony will damage Trump but won’t end his presidency, political analyst says

Donald Trump
Joshua Roberts | Reuters
Donald Trump

Former FBI Director James Comey is due to testify at a Senate hearing Thursday with this historical moment set to hurt the image of President Donald Trump, according to one political analyst.

Erik Jones, professor of international political economy at Johns Hopkins University, told CNBC that it is too early to assess the impact of Comey's testimony but it will certainly have an impact on how many Americans see their president.

"What we can guess for now is that it will damage the president's public image. It will also likely trigger another Twitter rant from Trump. There will be lots of questions about whether the Russia scandal will blow up into something like an obstruction of justice scandal as a consequence," Jones said via email.

Comey was fired at the start of May by Trump while he was leading an investigation into alleged interference by Russian authorities in the presidential election. Comey's detailed notes on his multiple conversations with Trump might raise questions on whether the exchanges could be seen as an obstruction of justice. However, many expect that would be a difficult charge to bring against Trump.

"I think what we'd need to hear is that Comey believed that Trump was actively pushing him to stop the investigation into Russia, which is exactly what Comey doesn't want to say," Jones told CNBC on Thursday regarding what would be needed to see Trump's impeachment.

"Impeachment is a political process, it's not a legal process," Jones noted. "All you need is a wave of opinion among particularly congressional Republicans that there's a reason to move against this president. So far we haven't seen that shift in opinion," he added.

At the time of Comey's resignation, Trump said, "It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission."

In prepared remarks ahead of Thursday's hearing, Comey said: "Throughout history, some presidents have decided that because 'problems' come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close ... But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work."

Even though Trump might not be close to an impeachment process, tensions are high and Trump's approval ratings seem to be falling.

"People are definitely talking impeachment," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research to CNBC. "They're saying it would be better to get Trump out of the way. (Vice President Mike) Pence is very much like Trump on issues about business and very different in terms of being able to get things done in Washington.''

A Gallup poll showed recently an approval rating of 40 percent for President Trump – the lowest ever given to a newly elected president.

-CNBC's Tim Mullaney contributed to this report.

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