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Comey Vows To Resist Subpoena From House Republicans For Closed-Door Testimony

Former FBI director James Comey is sworn in during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in June 2017.
Alex Brandon
Former FBI director James Comey is sworn in during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in June 2017.

James Comey, the former head of the FBI who was fired by President Trump, says he will push back on a subpoena to appear in a closed-door session before the House Judiciary Committee unless he is allowed to testify publicly.

The committee, which has also issued a subpoena to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, is looking into how the FBI handled the investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails.

"I'm still happy to sit in the light and answer all questions," Comey tweeted. "But I will resist a 'closed door' thing because I've seen enough of their selective leaking and distortion."

"Let's have a hearing and invite everyone to see," he added.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, issued the subpoenas for Comey and Lynch. Comey would appear in private before the body on Dec. 3 and Lynch on the following day.

"While the authority for Congressional subpoenas is broad, it does not cover the right to misuse closed hearings as a political stunt to promote political as opposed to legislative agendas," Comey's lawyer, Daniel Richman, said in a statement a day after the subpoenas were issued on Wednesday.

"The subpoena issued yesterday represents an abuse of process, a divergence from House rules and its presumption of transparency," he said.

Comey, who oversaw an investigation of then-candidate Clinton's use of a personal email account and a private server while she was secretary of state, was harshly critical of her behavior but concluded that it did not rise to the level of a prosecutable offense.

Even so, some Republicans argue that the Justice Department and the FBI conspired against candidate Trump, hoping to throw the election to Clinton. Democrats say the GOP is hoping to use the issue to derail or discredit special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Whatever the aim of House Republicans, they are likely feeling the need to act quickly before Democrats, who won control of the chamber in elections earlier this month, take over in January.

"It is unfortunate that the outgoing Majority is resorting to these tactics," New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said in a statement.

"Months ago, Director Comey and Attorney General Lynch both indicated their willingness to answer the Chairman's questions voluntarily," Nadler wrote. "My understanding is that the Republicans have had no contact with either the Director or the Attorney General since."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.