House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy said Sunday that lawmakers should videotape the closed-door testimony of James B. Comey as a way to ease the former FBI director’s concern that his remarks would be selectively leaked if they weren’t made at a public hearing.
The suggestion came as Gowdy (R-S.C.) was answering questions on CBS’s “Face the Nation” about the House Judiciary Committee’s recent subpoena of Comey and former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch for private testimony.
The committee is probing federal law enforcement’s handling of two politically charged probes into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Comey has said he planned to resist the subpoena — though he was willing to appear at a public hearing — in part to prevent misleading leaks.
“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 tweet, adding, “Let’s have a hearing and invite everyone to see.”
Gowdy said he agreed with Comey’s concern about leaks from congressional inquiries.
“I don’t get a chance to say this very often, but I do think Jim Comey is right,” he said. He quickly added, though, that he did not think the former FBI director should testify publicly. Instead, a video recording of the closed-door testimony should be released later after references to classified material are removed.
“The remedy for leaks is not to have a public hearing where you are supposed to ask about 17 months worth of work in five minutes,” Gowdy said. “I think the remedy is to videotape the deposition.”
Gowdy derided congressional hearings as having “a professional-wrestling-type carnival atmosphere,” asserting that people often act differently when they know they are appearing on TV. He said the logistics ultimately would be decided by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), but added that if he were in charge he would make a “formal offer” to Comey.
A lawyer for Comey declined to comment. A spokesman for Goodlatte did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
The subpoenas direct Comey to appear Dec. 3 to speak with members of the House Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform committees. Lynch is to appear Dec. 4.
The issue likely could become moot if there is any delay, as Democrats, who hold a decidedly different view of the Russia and Clinton probes, will take control of the House — and its subpoena power — early next year.