Comey Takes Legal Action To Ensure House Testimony Isn’t Behind Closed Doors

Former FBI director James Comey.
Carsten Koall / Getty Images

Former FBI Director James Comey has filed a legal challenge against the conditions being made by a set of congressional committees, which are compelling him to testify before them.

Comey was subpoenaed last week by the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees to give testimony on subjects relating to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails while she was serving as Secretary of State as well as the Russia investigation that he was tasked with heading during the first few months of President Donald Trump’s presidency, according to reporting from CNN.

The former FBI director takes no issue with having to testify. However, he doesn’t believe he should have to do so behind “closed doors,” especially since the committees he’s set to speak before have a habit of selectively leaking information that fits their political narratives.

Comey would rather the meeting be open to the public, to prevent a skewed version of his testimony from being leaked by committee members.

Comey and his legal team filed their grievances with a federal court in Washington, DC. They’re hopeful that the court will rule in their favor, which will still mean that Comey will have to give public testimony about the subject matter he was subpoenaed to speak about, but in a manner that is more open and would prevent lawmakers from selectively releasing parts of his testimony from being made public against his wishes or without context.

Attorneys for Comey say House Judiciary and Oversight Committees “have conducted an investigation in a manner that exceeds a proper legislative purpose insofar as members of the committees have established a practice of selectively leaking witnesses’ testimony in order to support a false political narrative, while subjecting witnesses to a variety of abuse.”

Comey’s lawyers also highlighted how the nature of a closed meeting could likely cause damage to their client’s reputation.

“Mr. Comey asks this Court’s intervention not to avoid giving testimony but to prevent the Joint Committee from using the pretext of a closed interview to peddle a distorted, partisan political narrative about the Clinton and Russian investigations through selective leaks.”

Comey’s legal team cited a court case from the era of Joseph McCarthy and the “Red Scare” of the 1950s, Watkins v. United States. That case found that a House committee didn’t have the absolute right to compel a person to give testimony, especially on matters of people’s personal lives, according to reporting from Talking Points Memo.