Former FBI Director James Comey's upcoming testimony to Congress will be "very significant and very important to the entire investigation" into Russian meddling in last year's presidential election, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday.
"He played a key role as FBI director in conducting a preliminary investigation into this whole issue," Panetta, who also served as CIA director under former President Barack Obama, told Wolf Blitzer on CNN. "He certainly has the possibility in his testimony of opening the door to an obstruction of justice charge.
"We're still a long way from proving that, but if he testifies that the president tried to inhibit and restrain the investigation that he was conducting, certainly it opens that question for consideration."
CNN reported Wednesday that Comey had agreed to testify in an open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee as early as next week.
Trump fired Comey earlier this month. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been named as special prosecutor in the agency's Moscow investigation.
Panetta said that the former director's testimony "certainly opens the door" to obstruction "if the president urged him not to continue his investigation.
"Then, what needs to be done at that point is to fully look at all of the other factors," he continued. "But clearly, when the president urges the FBI director not to continue an investigation, there's no question that it smacks of obstruction."
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