The House Judiciary Committee has issued subpoenas for former FBI director James B. Comey and former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch to appear for closed-door interviews in a probe of how federal law enforcement officials handled investigations of Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Trump campaign’s alleged Russia ties.
The orders direct Comey to appear on Dec. 3, while Lynch is to appear on Dec. 4, to speak with members of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees. Both have spoken with other congressional panels looking into matters related to Russian interference in the 2016 election and have indicated they are willing to speak to the joint inquiry as well.
But Comey has already objected to the format of the interview, and on Thursday, his lawyer promised he would challenge the subpoena in court.
“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. “The subpoena issued yesterday represents an abuse of process, a divergence from House rules and its presumption of transparency. Accordingly, Mr. Comey will resist in Court this abuse of process.”
Earlier Thursday, Comey tweeted his objection to the subpoena.
“I’m still happy to sit in the light and answer all questions. But I will resist a ‘closed door’ thing because I’ve seen enough of their selective leaking and distortion,” he wrote in a Thanksgiving Day tweet, acknowledging he had received the subpoena.
“Let’s have a hearing and invite everyone to see,” he added.
The panels’ inquiry has been driven by Republicans and decried by Democrats, who charge that the Republicans are using the investigation as an excuse to pillory law enforcement officials and cast doubt over the work that formed the basis of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe. The joint investigation has drawn in senior members of the FBI and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, whom several Republican lawmakers want to bring back to Capitol Hill before the year ends.
The panels’ investigation is set to either end or dramatically change by the beginning of next year, when Democrats will hold the House majority and assume charge — and full subpoena power — of all House committees.
Last week, when Democrats were warned that Comey and Lynch would probably be subpoenaed, Judiciary panel ranking Democrat, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), admonished panel Republicans for issuing them “out of the blue, with very little time left on the calendar.”
“Witnesses have an obligation to comply with committee subpoenas,” he said in a statement, “but the committee has an obligation to issue those subpoenas with care.”