House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte is preparing to issue a subpoena to force the Justice Department to turn over former FBI Director James B. Comey’s memos that he wrote — and then had leaked — detailing his interactions with President Trump.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said Mr. Goodlatte notified him of the plans Wednesday.
The subpoena would be issued to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Congress has been seeking the memos but Mr. Rosenstein missed the deadline for production earlier this week. He said they needed more time and consultation, saying the memos may contain classified information and may include confidential presidential communications that should be legally protected.
Mr. Nadler called the subpoena an attempt to undercut special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the 2016 election. He said the GOP must be willing to make accommodations.
“I also hope that the public will see this bit of theater for what it is,” the New York Democrat said. “The Comey memos are key to the special counsel’s work. Pursuant to long-standing Department policy and absent any satisfactory accommodation, the Department of Justice cannot simply hand over evidence that is part of an ongoing criminal investigation.”
The memos were Mr. Comey’s records of his interactions with Mr. Trump. He wrote them, he said, because he was disturbed by those interactions and wanted to have contemporaneous records.
After he was fired, he gave the memos to a friend who was a law professor at Columbia University, who then leaked the contents to The New York Times, which reported on the strained interactions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.
Mr. Mueller was appointed soon thereafter to pick up the work of investigating Russian activities in the election, and also to probe whether the firing of Mr. Comey was an attempt to stymy a deeper look into Russian operatives’ attempts to influence the election.
The subpoena wasn’t the only move Capitol Hill Republicans made against Mr. Comey on Wednesday over his memos.
A group of conservative lawyers sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department asking prosecutors to consider bringing charges against not only Mr. Comey, but a host of other Obama administration officials involved in the probe into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails.
They said Mr. Comey should be investigated for allowing politics to influence his decision not the recommend charges against Mrs. Clinton for her email misuse, and for possibly leaking classified information in those memos that he indirectly fed to the press after he was fired last year.