Comey rejects request for closed-door interview with House Republicans

Comey rejects request for closed-door interview with House Republicans
© Greg Nash

Former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Mazie Hirono: ‘Walls are closing in’ on Trump 10 pieces of evidence against most diabolical Russian spy ever MORE has rejected a request from Republicans in Congress to sit for a closed-door interview as part of their efforts to probe allegations of bias at the Justice Department and the FBI. 

Comey instead offered to testify publicly, according to a letter sent by his attorney to leaders of the House Judiciary and the Oversight and Government Reform committees on Monday. 

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“Mr. Comey respectfully declines your request for a private interview,” David Kelley, Comey’s attorney, wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The Hill. “He would, however, welcome the opportunity to testify at a public hearing.”

Reps. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Comey rips Trump, GOP over 'lying' Trump attorney general pick a prolific donor to GOP candidates, groups: report MORE (R-Va.) and Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans The Year Ahead: Pressure mounts on election security as 2020 approaches House GOP set to grill Comey MORE (R-S.C.), the committee leaders, had requested that Comey appear for a transcribed, closed-door interview in a letter sent in September, according to Kelley’s letter.

Republicans on both committees have accused the FBI of exhibiting bias in the early stages of the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. They have pointed to text messages critical of President TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate MORE that were exchanged by officials before the 2016 election and later unearthed by a Justice Department inspector general investigation.

The committees have launched a probe into allegations of bias, interviewing witnesses from the FBI and Justice Department behind closed doors. Critics view the moves as a Republican effort to discredit special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s Russia investigation. 

Trump fired Comey in May 2017, a decision that was first predicated on a Justice Department memo critical of Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation. Later, the president indicated that the Russia investigation — the existence of which Comey revealed publicly months earlier — factored into his decision.

Comey’s firing precipitated Mueller’s appointment. In addition to investigation potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow, Mueller is also investigating whether the president obstructed justice.

Comey has appeared publicly before lawmakers once before as a former director of the FBI. In dramatic June 2017 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey revealed that Trump told him to "let go" of the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has since pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in Mueller's probe. 

Still, the former FBI director has hardly been out of the spotlight, having embarked on a highly publicized tour for his book, "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership," over the summer months. 

“Given that Mr. Comey no longer has a security clearance, we do not anticipate the public setting to present concerns about the disclosure of classified information,” Kelley wrote to the Republican leaders. 

“Moreover, we also expect that, because any information about which you may inquire was acquired by Mr. Comey while he was in the employ of the FBI, you will obtain in advance the necessary approvals from the FBI for Mr. Comey to disclose FBI information that may be responsive to your examination,” he wrote. 

Kelley asked the committees to contact him "as soon as possible" to schedule a hearing date, citing Comey's busy schedule. 

Letter to US Congress _ House of Representative by blc88 on Scribd