Comey goes to court to avoid closed door House testimony

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With time running out on the GOP majority in the U.S. House, former FBI Director James Comey has asked a federal court in Washington to scuttle a subpoena from Republicans on a pair of House committees for his testimony next Monday, arguing he is willing to answer any questions from the Congress, but wants to do it in public, and not behind closed doors.

Republicans on the Judiciary and Oversight committees want to ask Comey questions about both the Russia investigation, and the probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails from her time as Secretary of State.

Comey is scheduled for testimony on Monday; former Attorney General Loretta Lynch is slated to appear for testimony on Tuesday, also out of the public eye.

In a motion to quash the subpoena, lawyers for the former FBI Director say he wants to avoid giving Republicans the chance to “peddle a distorted, partisan political narrative about the Clinton and Russian investigations through selective leaks.”

Republicans accused Comey of trying to avoid answering questions.

“The truth IS best served with transparency,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “What is Director Comey trying to hide from the American people with his baseless motion to quash?”

GOP lawmakers have said they want to question Comey without TV cameras to avoid a circus-like atmosphere in the committee hearing room – but critics of Comey also worry that he would sidestep questions in front of the press by saying it would involve secret matters.

There is a question of whether Comey – who no longer has a security clearance – could get into some matters which might deal with classified information from the Russia investigation, even behind closed doors.

It was not immediately clear how quickly the case would come before a federal judge in Washington, as it was still possible that Comey would simply not show up on Monday.

Back in October, Comey’s lawyer was clear.

“Mr. Comey respectfully declines your request for a private interview,” wrote David Kelley. “He would, however, welcome the opportunity to testify at a public hearing.”

Republicans could then move to hold him in Contempt of Congress, as they did several years ago with former Attorney General Eric Holder over Operation Fast and Furious.

Holder was never prosecuted.