Former FBI Director James Comey’s lawyers have prevented him from answering a number of questions during Friday’s closed-door testimony before House lawmakers, according to a lawmaker in the room.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told reporters that some lawmakers have been frustrated with the testimony so far and that Comey didn’t seem upset about being told by his lawyers that he doesn’t have to answer certain questions.
"One of the disappointments of this deposition so far has been the amount of times in which the FBI believes that Congress doesn’t have a right to know," Issa said.
Issa said Comey has two attorneys, including one from the DOJ, who have “instructed” the former FBI director not to answer “a great many questions that are clearly items at the core of our investigation.” Issa said the instructions have been followed with Comey’s “gleeful acceptance.”
"The Department of Justice is going to have to agree to allow him to come back and answer a great many questions that currently he is not answering," Issa said.
Comey, who may publicly speak at some point Friday, initially fought the committee’s subpoena to appear in court but finally forged an agreement to appear. The committee is expected to release a transcript of the interview, perhaps as early as Saturday.
"The details of what's going on in there will remain private until after the deposition," Issa said. "... [T]here is an amazing amount of things that reasonably the public will need to know that the Department of Justice and FBI attorney are guiding him not to answer."
He later told Fox News’ “Outnumbered Overtime” that the questions not being answered generally concerned the Hillary Clinton email probe, surveillance warrants and the anti-Trump dossier.
The former FBI director declined to answer shouted questions from Fox News as he entered the hearing room Friday morning. The questioning will go until 4:15 p.m. ET, North Carolina GOP Rep. Mark Meadows told reporters.
A key focus of questioning from lawmakers, Fox News is told, was Comey's decision to draft the 2016 statement recommending against filing criminal charges in the Clinton email probe before the former secretary of state was even interviewed, as well as the apparent political bias demonstrated in a slew of text messages and leaks by top FBI officials.
Republicans were also expected to ask about the comparably favorable treatment afforded by the FBI to Clinton advisers. In October, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth said he was "shocked" and "dumbfounded" when he learned that FBI had granted immunity to former Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills during its investigation into the use of Clinton's server, according to a court transcript of his remarks.
Such hearings may not continue after the new year: with Democrats taking back control of the House, would-be incoming House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said Friday he will end the GOP inquiry into DOJ and FBI actions during the 2016 election, calling it a waste of time.
As for Friday's hearing, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., told host Shannon Bream on "Fox News @ Night" Thursday that Republicans would additionally focus on potential Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court abuse by the FBI.
President Trump fired Comey in May 2017, prompting Comey to leak memos documenting statements by the president in which he purportedly demanded Comey's loyalty and suggested Comey curtail the investigation into Flynn.
The leaked memos helped lead to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment, while fueling Republicans' claims that Comey was unfit to lead the FBI.
Meadows also said Friday that testimony they've received has been at odds with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's claims disputing a report that he once suggested wearing a wire against Trump.
"Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein's public statements that he did not really talk seriously about taping the president and invoking the 25th Amendment is not consistent with the number of other sworn testimony or transcribed interviews that we've had," he said.
Meanwhile, the president launched a broadside Friday at Mueller’s investigators ahead of major filings in the Russia probe, alleging a slew of internal “conflicts of interest” and suggesting all those controversies should be included in the final report.
“Robert Mueller and Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest. And bye the way, wasn’t the woman in charge of prosecuting Jerome Corsi (who I do not know) in charge of 'legal' at the corrupt Clinton Foundation?” Trump tweeted, again calling the probe a “total Witch Hunt.”
Fox News’ Caroline McKee, Kristina Biddle, Gregg Re, Brooke Singman and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.