Comey Asks Court for a First-Ever Order Blocking House Subpoena

(Bloomberg) -- Former FBI Director James Comey’s lawyer asked a Washington federal judge to issue what he conceded would be a first-of-its-kind trial court order blocking a House of Representatives subpoena.

Attorney David Kelley made the request Friday, telling U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden that House Republicans are seeking his client’s closed-door deposition so that they can selectively leak and distort portions of it. He accused the GOP of attempting to use the leaks to back their already predetermined conclusions about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The judge didn’t immediately rule on the request, and scheduled another hearing for Dec. 3, which is when Comey was scheduled to testify. The committee volunteered to put off that testimony by a day.

The unprecedented nature of Comey’s request was raised first by Thomas Hungar, a lawyer for the House who told the judge, "no federal district court in the history of the republic" had ever granted such relief. "This court should not be the first," Hungar said.

"That doesn’t mean that it can’t happen and it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t happen," Kelley, a former Manhattan-based U.S. Attorney, responded near the end of the hour-long hearing.

Comey was subpoenaed to appear before members of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees last week. He took to Twitter and then to court papers to object to the summons, contending anything he said was going to be misused for political purposes and that he was willing to answer the lawmakers’ questions, but only in public.

President Donald Trump fired Comey last year and has continued to denounce him. Some Republicans have joined Trump in contending that Comey went easy on Clinton’s use of a private email server while allowing anti-Trump bias in the bureau and the Justice Department to taint the early stages of the Russia probe.

Republican lawmakers have also summoned former Attorney General Loretta Lynch to testify in the closed-door session.

Hungar argued that the U.S. Constitution’s speech-or-debate clause immunizes Congress from the type of judicial interference sought by the ex-FBI director. He said the committee needed Comey’s testimony to finish a report by year’s end -- before control of the House shifts to the Democrats.

He said Comey wasn’t barred from discussing his testimony in public, and a transcript of the hearing would be made available within 24 hours.

That prompted the judge to question why a closed-door session was necessary in the first place.

The case is In Re Subpoena of James Comey, 18-mc-174, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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