Former FBI director James Comey has come to an agreement with House Republicans to testify behind closed doors before the House Judiciary Committee about his actions during the Hillary Clinton email and Russian collusion investigations.
Comey had sued the committee, demanding he be allowed to testify in public about his actions. But the agreement states that he will give his deposition in private, although a transcript will be released to the public.
Comey sought a public hearing, claiming in a court filing Thursday that he feared “selective leaks” from Republicans. But in an emergency court hearing Friday, Comey’s attorneys acknowledged that the request to quash the congressional subpoena was unorthodox, suggesting the motion had little chance of succeeding.
Comey wrote Sunday on Twitter that he was “grateful for a fair hearing from judge.”
He said that he will testify “in the dark” but that Republicans had agreed he is “free to talk when done and transcript released in 24 hours.”
“This is the closest I can get to public testimony,” he wrote.
The bid to squash the subpoena was more than “unorthodox.” It was arrogant. A witness before any committee cannot negotiate the manner of his appearance. Comey says he feared Republicans would selectively leak his testimony, trying to make him and the Democrats look bad. While that is entirely possible, it’s not up to Comey to protect a political party or his tattered reputation by avoiding a congressional committee.
Republicans argued against Comey’s motion to block the subpoena, noting that other current and former FBI officials have testified privately during the course of the committees’ investigation of the Clinton and Trump probes.
“Sixteen other people have testified under oath in the same setting that we’re asking him to do it and his claim that he needs to do it in public is, in my opinion, a farce,” Virginia GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told Fox News on Friday.
Republicans have accused the FBI and Justice Department of going easy on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and of abusing the surveillance court process to obtain spy warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Republican lawyers said they wanted to secure Comey’s testimony ahead of a report that the committees are planning to release in the coming weeks.
“If Mr. Comey’s deposition were to be stayed, it would have a profound impact on the Committee’s investigation and prevent the Committee from providing a full accounting of DOJ’s actions in 2016. The Committee intends to issue a joint report (together with [the House Oversight Committee]) before the end of the 115th Congress – i.e., in a few short weeks,” lawyers for the House Judiciary Committee wrote in a court filing Friday.
It’s doubtful Comey will add anything new to what we already know about the email investigation or the FBI’s possible process violations in securing a FISA warrant against Carter Page. But getting him on record is important for its own sake and even if Democrats won’t do anything with the committee report except accuse Republicans of a partisan witch hunt, it might come into play if Democrats try to impeach Donald Trump.