On Thanksgiving, former FBI Director James Comey shared that he’d been subpoenaed for closed-door testimony by Congressional Republicans, and now, his attorneys have unveiled a challenge to the subpoena in court. He’s made clear that he’s not withholding testimony, but instead, he’s opposed to the idea of getting swept into the GOP’s familiar harsh narrative against the Justice Department he used to work in. He doesn’t want to testify behind closed doors.
In D.C. federal court, his lawyers Vincent Cohen and David Kelley wrote in their filing:
‘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 Russia investigations through selective leaks.’
Those concerned with protecting the integrity of the United States’ justice system have faced selective leaks and a harshly distorted political narrative plenty of times already.
For instance, President Donald Trump himself has pushed the cherry picked piece of information that Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr met with Christopher Steele, the author of an infamous dossier of allegations of connections to Russia on the part of the president and his team. He has also touted time and time again that Ohr’s wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS, the firm whose commissioned work culminated in the dossier Steele produced — despite a couple of key facts that make the points nearly irrelevant.
Despite the implication that the association between the Justice Department and Fusion GPS makes their Russia investigation inherently biased — the dossier didn’t even spark the probe. It was already snowballing into existence thanks to issues like Trump adviser George Papadopoulos’ association with Russians in the know about the emails stolen from the Democrats. Additionally, Nellie Ohr didn’t even work on the dossier project.
The examples could go on. For instance, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has pushed the Justice Department’s usage of the Trump dossier as justification for their surveillance of Trump associate Carter Page as supposed evidence of politicization of the department. However, the dossier didn’t form the whole basis for their investigation, and there’s not some actual vast uncovered conspiracy to hide the document’s political charge.
That alleged conspiracy, if in place, would include Comey, who led the FBI during the beginning of the Russia investigation until he was fired and Special Counsel Robert Mueller replaced him at the probe’s top spot.
Republicans have also scrutinized him over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s usage of a private email server. That’s been and remains a pet issue for the right; Trump was reported recently to have privately sought Clinton’s (and Comey’s) prosecution despite the utter lack of condemning evidence against them. He’s gone after the former FBI director for having ever declared Clinton innocent in the first place.
His attacks haven’t entirely stuck, though, and Comey remains a free man. The scrutiny he’s facing from Congress will no doubt soon shift dramatically because Republicans only have the power to subpoena him in the House at all for barely another month — they’d originally wanted him to testify next Monday.
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