As I understand it, Peter Strzok is to appear to day before the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to provide sworn testimony. Link here Press reports have indicated that he had voluntarily agreed to provide this testimony in a open session. However the House Committees chose to issue a subpoena, forcing him to testify in closed session.link here

As a witness, who has agreed to testify in open session, is he precluded or subject to punishment for publicly disclosing any of HIS statements in the "closed door session" today. (Assuming that he does not publicly disclose any of the members or investigators statements or questions)

Obviously he should not disclose any classified information.

More generally, if a witness is subject to sanction under these circumstances, is issuing a subpoena a useful tactic to silence a witness who otherwise is willing to be public with unclassified information?

  • Your assessment of motivations in this particular case is wrong. From a political stand-point, Congress uses closed sessions to a) Help keep the testimony on topic and prevent the testimony from turning into a political speech. b) To hide the truth from the public when they expect testimony to come up that could be bad for their party. This doesn't permanently hide the truth but buys time to form a mitigation response. I think case (a) seems to be the reason that makes the most sense. It would take some sort of court order or written agreement to prevent Strzok from disclosing his testimony.
    – Dunk
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 22:13
  • @Dunk, ?? I assessed motivations ?? I would agree that during open hearings there is plenty of soap-boxing, however (not having the opportunity to attend a closed hearing) I'm not at all certain that being closed constrains legislators to stay on-topic and avoid self-serving speeches (even if the audience is only their fellow members). I'm inclined to agree with your assessment that some other mechanism would have to be employed to prevent Strzok from talking about his non-classified answers.
    – BobE
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 22:35

1 Answer 1


I think your flaw is assuming that a subpoena is required for it to be closed door. Typically, a subpoena is just the tool to compel a witness to appear before congress for any number of reasons. It does not imply a closed session.

Closed sessions occur when the testimony regaurds classified information which is not available to the public. While Strzok may dip into this territory, he currently doesn't plan to testify to anything that should be classified. The open session may go to closed door if the Committee feels he can give more substantive answers with the doors closed and in a classified setting. Depending on when this decision is made, the subpeana may be issued just to make it perfectly clear that he will have to testify.

While his initial testimony is given freely, he could use the classified argument to evade questions he may not want to provide an answer too. Following this conclusion, he may try to claim that he will not do closed door session because he volunteered, meaning congress will now compel him, where as formerly he was not compelled to give unclassified testimony.

TL;DR: An open session can become closed during the course of the session OR it could be fully open and a second closed session is desired. If in the latter case, the person testifying doesn't think the second session is needed, a subpoena will force the issue anyway and require him to return or be held in contempt of congress.

  • 1
    While much of what you say may be true, I don't assume that a subpeona is required for closed session. Without citing cases, there have been plenty of closed sessions where witnesses are not under threat of subpoena sanctions.
    – BobE
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 17:57

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