“The thing that clearly is going to have to happen is 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,” said Representative Darrell Issa of California.
In brief comments to the press after his interview, Comey didn’t sound like a rattled witness. He was as jocular as ever, saying that the transcript would show that there was no reason that the session couldn’t have been public, as he had requested. He said most of the deposition focused on Clinton’s emails—“which will bore you,” he promised.
Krishnamoorthi, having attended the deposition, was already bored. “This is the 17th interview,” he said. “I think I’ve attended almost every single one of these. It’s the same questions, over and over again, we get the same answers from almost all of the witnesses, and again, I’m left with the impression that we got nowhere today.”
Even so, Republicans will have one more shot. Comey agreed to return on December 17 to finish questions unasked today. (“I’m trying to respect the institution,” he said, in a tone that suggested his regard for congressional oversight hasn’t increased just because he’s no longer at the FBI.)
Comey said that the reason the government lawyer kept instructing him not to answer was simple: He can’t talk about ongoing investigations, and notably the Russia probe. It’s unclear why the Department of Justice would soften its stance between now and Comey’s return. Perhaps GOP members hope that by complaining in front of the cameras, they can get President Donald Trump to speak out, and that his words might pressure acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, an admirer of the president’s, into loosening the bounds on Comey.
The maneuver of blaming the Justice Department is by now a familiar one. Since taking over the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterms, Republicans have repeatedly insinuated a great scandal just waiting to be exposed—first Fast and Furious, then Benghazi. The pattern has only intensified since Trump became president and his administration came under Justice Department scrutiny. Time and again, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has teased some enormous new revelation that is sure to change the public understanding of the Russia scandal, from nefarious unmasking in intelligence reports to snooping on the then-candidate Trump to the improper use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, each time implying that members of the executive branch, such as Comey, have been up to no good. And each time, most dramatically with the much anticipated memo declassified by President Trump, it has turned out to be a nothingburger.
Read: The Republican Party turns against the FBI
And so far, it looks like the same might be true of Comey. It’s hard to imagine that the lanky lawman has anything fresh to say to anybody. Other than Trump himself, Comey might be the most overexposed figure in American politics, from his many prior appearances to Congress to his autobiography, with its splashy publicity tour. Though Comey tried to convince a judge to make his testimony public, the court might have been doing the nation a favor by declining. Comey even used his brief remarks to reprise a central theme of the book.