Former FBI Director Comey Sues to Quash House Subpoena

November 30, 2018 Updated: November 30, 2018

Former FBI Director James Comey asked a federal court in Washington on Nov. 29 to block a subpoena compelling him to appear for a closed-door interview with House lawmakers.

Comey filed a motion with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with three days left before his scheduled appearance before two House committees on the morning of Dec. 3. Attorneys for the former FBI director told the court that the subpoena “exceeds a proper legislative purpose, is issued in violation of House rules, and unduly prejudices and harasses the witness,” according to the court documents (pdf).

The House judiciary and government oversight committees are conducting an inquiry into a pair of major FBI investigations conducted under Comey: the Hillary Clinton email probe and the investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.

The judiciary committee issued a subpoena to Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Nov. 21. Comey indicated at the time that he plans to challenge the subpoena.

The former FBI director said on Nov. 22 that he is open to appearing for a public hearing, but “will resist” a closed-door deposition because of “selective leaking and distortion.”

Less than two months prior to the issuance of the subpoena, Comey declined to voluntarily appear for a closed-door interview with the committees, citing the same reasons.

“It appears Mr. Comey believes he deserves special treatment, as he is the only witness refusing to either appear voluntarily or comply with a subpoena. He needs to appear before the Committees, as all other witnesses have done. Let the facts come to light,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) wrote on Twitter on Nov. 29.

The joint committees have interviewed several key current and former FBI and DOJ officials involved in either one or both of the Clinton and Trump investigations, including former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI officials Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Jonathan Moffa, and James Baker, and Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.

According to Comey, each testimony resulted in “selective leaks” designed to “peddle a distorted, partisan political narrative.” Comey’s court filing points out that the issue of leaks was not lost on one of the Republican chairs of the committees.”

“I don’t get a chance to say this often, but I do think Jim Comey is right,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the House government oversight committee told CBS in an interview which aired on Nov. 25. “Leaks are counterproductive whether Jim Comey is doing it, whether the FBI is doing it, or whether Congress is doing it.”

“I am sensitive to leaks,” he added. “I hate leaks. I think they undercut the authenticity of the investigation.”

Gowdy pointed out in a separate interview that Comey used the public setting as an excuse to not answer nearly 100 questions during his prior public appearances.

“So why in the world would he want to go back to a setting where he knows he can’t answer all the questions,” Gowdy told Fox News on Nov. 19.

Strzok was a lead agent in both the Clinton and Trump investigations. A Justice Department watchdog released a report earlier this year detailing Strzok’s bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton. Strzok was part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, but was removed from the investigation after Mueller learned of Strzok’s biased text messages.

Judge Trevor McFadden scheduled a 2 p.m. hearing on the motion for Nov. 30.

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