WASHINGTON (CNN/RNN/AP) — Lawmakers put James Comey on the hot seat Friday, during a daylong closed-door session on Capitol Hill.
The former FBI director was subjected to aggressive questioning from the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees.
Both Democrats and Republicans said Comey didn’t answer several questions regarding Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
But he did answer questions about his probe into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's e-mails back the same year.
Comey defended his decision to reopen his inquiry days before the elections.
One lawmaker says he told the committee he did not want to conceal information that could impact a presidency.
Still, the subject matter seemed to cause some exasperation on Comey’s part.
“Two things are clear to me. One, we could have done this in open setting. And two, when you read the transcript, you will see that we are talking again about Hillary Clinton’s emails for heaven’s sake. So, I’m not sure we need to do this at all,” Comey said.
“I always want to respect the institution of Congress. I’d love it if they didn’t want me to testify, but if they want me to testify and we can do it in a responsible way I will abide it. So, we’ll see what happens.”
Comey said he’ll back in a couple of week to answer more questions.
President Donald Trump tweeted shortly after Comey emerged from the session, accusing him of not answering key questions during the closed hearing.
“It is being reported that Leakin' James Comey was told by Department of Justice attorneys not to answer the most important questions,” the president said. “Total bias and corruption at the highest levels of previous Administration. Force him to answer the questions under oath!”
Heading into this week, Comey reached a deal to testify privately before the committee, backing off his legal fight for an open hearing, his attorney said Sunday.
Comey, whose lawyers went to court to challenge a congressional subpoena, said in a tweet that it was "hard to protect my rights without being in contempt."
As part of a deal with legislators, Comey has been told that he is free to speak about the questioning afterward and that a transcript would be released 24 hours after he testifies, his attorney, David Kelley, said.
Comey’s lawyers told a federal judge that the interview should be done in a public setting because they fear that statements from a closed-door interview would be selectively leaked. A lawyer for Congress, however, argued that committees can conduct investigations however they please and Comey had no right to refuse a subpoena or demand a public hearing.
Following his testimony before the committee, Comey will be “free to make any or all of that transcript public as he is free to share with the public any of the questions asked and testimony given during the interview,” Kelley said.
Because of the deal, Comey agreed to withdraw his challenge to the subpoena. A judge had been set to rule on the matter on Monday.
The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, decried Comey's use of "baseless litigation" and called it an "attempt to run out the clock on this Congress," a reference to the few weeks left before Democrats take control.
A transcript of the interview will be released “as soon as possible after the interview, in the name of our combined desire for transparency,” Goodlatte said.