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Former FBI Director James Comey to testify privately Friday

Former FBI Director James Comey to testify privately Friday
Former FBI Director James Comey speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in June 2017. Comey has reached a deal to testify privately to the House Judiciary Committee, backing off his legal fight for an open hearing. (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Former FBI Director James Comey will testify behind closed doors on Friday before the House Judiciary Committee at the request of Republican lawmakers, his lawyers said, after ending a legal fight to quash their subpoena.

Comey had sued to block the summons last week, contending that the sealed testimony would be leaked and distorted by Republicans for political purposes.

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Early on Sunday, two days after Comey’s attorney conceded in court that no federal trial judge had ever batted down a House subpoena, the former FBI chief — who was fired by President Trump in 2017 — withdrew his request.

A lawyer for the judiciary panel had offered to make a transcript of the testimony public within 24 hours. In a tweet on Sunday, Comey indicated he’d accepted those terms. “This is the closest I can get to public testimony,” he said. Soon after, Comey’s lawyers withdrew their request to quash the subpoena.

Comey is expected to be asked about actions taken by the FBI in 2016, including a decision not to recommend criminal charges against Democrat Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server, as well as the FBI’s probe into potential coordination between Russia and Trump’s campaign.

The former FBI director demanded via Twitter on Nov. 22 that House Republicans let the American people watch his testimony. He is free to discuss his testimony, which is now voluntary, his lawyer said.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the committee’s chairman, said it was disappointing that Comey filed a motion to quash the motion in the first place and that his transcript will be released “as soon as possible after the interview, in the name of our combined desire for transparency.”

The hearing may be one of the final significant actions of the Republican-led panel under Goodlatte. In the new Congress, Democrats take the majority in the House and Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York is likely to be the new chairman.

Andrew Harris writes for Bloomberg.

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