GOP chairman plans to subpoena Comey, Lynch to testify before next Congress

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteIt’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling House GOP probe into FBI, DOJ comes to an end MORE (R-Va.) is planning to subpoena former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it Dems seize on Times bombshell to push allegations of Trump obstruction Trump calls Andrew McCabe a 'poor man's J. Edgar Hoover' MORE and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch in an effort to get them to testify before Democrats take over control of the panel in January, The Hill has learned.

Goodlatte on Friday provided notice to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the panel and presumed incoming chairman, of his plans to subpoena the former officials. Both officials served under former President Obama, while Comey briefly served under President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE before being fired in May 2017.

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The GOP chairman plans to subpoena the pair to discuss their decisionmaking during the 2016 presidential race, a committee aide confirmed. Republicans on the panel are seeking to have Comey appear for a deposition on Nov. 29 and for Lynch to testify Dec. 5.

Under Judiciary Committee rules, the chairman must consult the ranking member, in this case Nadler, at least two business days before issuing any subpoena — suggesting that the move could be imminent.

Nadler blasted the plan as a last-minute ploy by Republicans to go after two former officials before they exit the majority, while noting that Comey and Lynch have indicated they are willing to answer questions Goodlatte has for them.

“It is unfortunate that the outgoing Majority is resorting to these tactics," Nadler said in a statement Friday.

"Months ago, Director Comey and Attorney General Lynch both indicated their willingness to answer the Chairman’s questions voluntarily. My understanding is that the Republicans have had no contact with either the Director or the Attorney General since," he added, stating that the subpoenas are "coming out of the blue."

Republicans had sought to get Comey to testify voluntarily behind closed doors earlier this year, but he declined their request, stating that he would instead agree to an open hearing.

"We have not been contacted by the Committee since October 1 when we informed them of our willingness to testify in a public hearing," Comey's lawyer, David Kelley, told The Hill in an email on Friday.

In a tweet Friday evening, Comey invited House Republicans to hold a public hearing.

"House Republicans can ask me anything they want but I want the American people to watch, so let’s have a public hearing," he wrote. Truth is best served by transparency. Let me know when is convenient."

Both Comey and Lynch came under scrutiny by Republicans for their decisions during the heated presidential race.

Republicans on the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform committees, which are conducting a joint investigation, are eager to press Comey on his decision to not recommend charges against 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it Harris adds key Clinton aide, women of color to 2020 campaign: report Democrats more likely Trump's foil, than to foil Trump MORE for her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of State.

They also have a strong interest in asking Comey about the memos he kept in order to memorialize his private meetings with Trump at the start of the new administration.

The former FBI chief had stated during congressional testimony last year that he had kept such records of their private meetings because he felt the president inappropriately asked him to make a loyalty pledge while he was spearheading the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Comey also said Trump asked him to drop his investigation into former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired days into the new administration after reports revealed that he had lied to investigators about his contacts with a Russian diplomat.

Trump denies making such a request.

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Comey has also maintained that he did not disclose classified information when he shared some of the contents of the memos with a friend, a law professor at Columbia University. The friend, Daniel Richman, then shared the information verbally with The New York Times, in what became a successful effort to prompt the appointment of a special counsel.

Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE, who was named special counsel, has led the federal investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the election since May 2017.

Lynch, who is also a Republican target, has long faced GOP ire for holding a private and unscheduled meeting with former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonHoward Schultz must run as a Democrat for chance in 2020 Trump says he never told McCabe his wife was 'a loser' Harris off to best start among Dems in race, say strategists, donors MORE on a tarmac in Arizona during the 2016 race and while the probe into Hillary Clinton's private email server was ongoing. Republicans at the time seized on the meeting, arguing Lynch should recuse herself in the investigation.

She even faced criticism from Comey, who testified last year that he was concerned by Lynch telling the bureau to refer to the Clinton email probe as a "matter" when discussing it, which resembled the same messaging as the Clinton campaign. The episode led Lynch to say she would accept the FBI's recommendations about the Clinton probe.

News of the expected subpoenas also puts Nadler in a difficult position. Democrats don't want to water down the power of such congressional orders — particularly ahead of their soon-to-be return to power in the lower chamber — but the New York lawmaker disagrees with Goodlatte for the purposes of which they are being used.

"Witnesses have an obligation to comply with committee subpoenas, but the committee has an obligation to issue those subpoenas with care,” Nadler said broadly in his statement, while hitting his GOP colleagues for failing to conduct meaningful oversight. 

-- Updated 6:59 p.m.