A top U.S. House Republican said on Sunday that he expected former FBI Director James Comey to withdraw his effort to quash a congressional subpoena compelling him to testify in secret about the bureau’s decisions on investigations ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
In an interview on the Fox program “Sunday Morning Futures,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said attorneys for the U.S. House of Representatives and Comey have been in discussions since Friday, when they presented arguments in a court hearing on Comey’s motions.
Judge Trevor McFadden in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia had scheduled a follow-up hearing on Monday to decide the issue and asked James Comey’s lawyer David Kelley to submit an additional legal brief by Sunday afternoon.
But on Sunday, Goodlatte cast doubt on whether a ruling would ever come.
“I expect that later today, Mr. Comey will withdraw his motion to quash our subpoena and agree to voluntarily appear for a transcribed interview,” he said on the Fox program.
“That of course remains to be seen. It hasn’t happened yet. But the counsel for the House and the counsel for Mr. Comey have been working cooperatively and I expect that will happen.”
Kelley could not be immediately reached for comment.
At the heart of the case is whether Goodlatte’s panel should be able to force Comey to testify in secret about the FBI’s investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.
Kelley argued in court on Friday that Republicans are violating U.S. House rules by not holding a public hearing where all committee members can ask questions. Kelley accused lawmakers of pushing for a closed hearing so they can selectively leak portions of Comey’s testimony to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the election.
But Thomas Hungar, a lawyer for the U.S. House of Representatives, said a 1975 Supreme Court case known as Eastland v. U.S. Servicemen’s Fund made it clear that the Speech or Debate Clause in the U.S. Constitution provides for complete immunity for the issuance of such subpoenas.
That pivotal case was not cited in the legal briefs submitted by Comey’s attorney, prompting him to ask the judge for an opportunity to respond on Sunday.
No federal district court in history has granted such a request to quash a subpoena and suspend congressional proceedings.
The unprecedented nature of the case was not lost on McFadden during Friday’s hearing.
“So you don’t deny this has never been done by any district court judge before?” McFadden asked Kelley.
“Here’s your opportunity, judge, to make some law,” Kelley replied.