WASHINGTON (CNN) — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and FBI Director James Comey can’t seem to agree on whether the former invited the latter to testify before House Russia investigators, in a dispute that has now popped up twice in less than a week.
Nunes first announced last Friday that he was inviting Comey back to the House on Tuesday to answer questions in a closed briefing. But Nunes announced Monday that he had to cancel the hearing because Comey could not make the hearing.
However, a source at the FBI said the reason Comey couldn’t make the hearing was because he was never invited.
At the center of the dispute is a formal letter Nunes drafted last Friday, inviting Comey to brief the committee in private at the same time that former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and others were supposed to testify before the committee in public.
Nunes delivered the letter to the top Democrat on the investigation, Rep. Adam Schiff, but Schiff refused to sign the invite, saying he wanted to hold the public hearing they agreed on, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Then, Tuesday, Nunes said that he had invited Comey again to come testify before the House intelligence committee. A Nunes spokesman said that discussions between House intelligence staff and Comey staff have been conducted over phone and email, but did not immediately say if a formal request had been sent via letter.
Comey said he would not testify without a formal invite, a spokesman for Nunes told CNN.
“We had staff-to-staff discussions with their congressional affairs people,” Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said. “He declined to come without a formal invite letter signed by the chairman and the ranking member. The ranking member declined to sign the invite.”
An FBI official said earlier in the day Tuesday that the agency does not want to get stuck in the middle of the tug of war between Republicans and Democrats on the House intelligence committee.