Former FBI Director James Comey violated multiple government policies related to the retention, handling, and dissemination of bureau …
Former FBI Director James Comey violated multiple government policies related to the retention, handling, and dissemination of bureau records when he leaked memos regarding his interactions with President Donald Trump to The New York Times, according to a report released on Aug. 29 by the Department of Justice Inspector General.
“Comey’s actions with respect to the Memos violated Department and FBI policies concerning the retention, handling, and dissemination of FBI records and information, and violated the requirements of Comey’s FBI Employment Agreement,” the report (pdf) states.
Comey wrote seven memos as a record of his conversations with the president. When Trump fired Comey in May 2017, Comey leaked the memos to The New York Times through an associate, Daniel Richman. Comey claims to have leaked the memos in an attempt to force the appointment of a special counsel. Days after New York Times published an article based on the memos, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller.
Comey issued a response on Twitter, quoting a portion of the report which dealt with whether Comey violated federal law concerning the disclosure of classified information.
“DOJ IG ‘found no evidence that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the memos to members of the media,’” Comey wrote. “I don’t need a public apology from those who defamed me, but a quick message with a ‘sorry we lied about you’ would be nice.”
“And to all those who’ve spent two years talking about me “going to jail” or being a “liar and a leaker”—ask yourselves why you still trust people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president,” Comey added.
While Comey was not found to have given classified information to the media, he provided classified information to his attorneys, the report found.
Comey told investigators that he considered six of the memos to be personal records. The inspector general concluded that the memos were FBI records. Since Comey kept several of the memos in his office at home after he was fired, the DOJ IG found that Comey violated applicable policies when he failed to surrender the memos to the FBI and failed to seek authorization to retain them. The former director also violated department policy when he failed to notify the FBI of the disclosure of classified information to his attorneys.
“Former Director Comey failed to live up to this responsibility,” the report states. “By not safeguarding sensitive information obtained during the course of his FBI employment, and by using it to create public pressure for official action, Comey set a dangerous example for the over 35,000 current FBI employees—and the many thousands more former FBI employees—who similarly have access to or knowledge of non-public information.”
In the course of the investigation of the memo leaks, some of Comey’s close advisers used words like “surprised,” “stunned,” “shocked,” and “disappointment” when they learned what Comey had done, the report states.
“We have previously faulted Comey for acting unilaterally and inconsistent with Department policy. Comey’s unauthorized disclosure of sensitive law enforcement information about the Flynn investigation merits similar criticism. In a country built on the rule of law, it is of utmost importance that all FBI employees adhere to Department and FBI policies, particularly when confronted by what appear to be extraordinary circumstances or compelling personal convictions,” the report states in the concluding paragraph.
“Comey had several other lawful options available to him to advocate for the appointment of a Special Counsel, which he told us was his goal in making the disclosure. What was not permitted was the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive investigative information, obtained during the course of FBI employment, in order to achieve a personally desired outcome.”
The DOJ IG referred the findings to the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility to determine if any action is necessary.
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A federal judge ordered the Department of Justice to hand over memos drafted by former FBI Director James Comey in which he recorded the details of his one-on-one conversations with President Donald Trump.
Judge James Boasberg ruled in favor of CNN, The Daily Caller News Foundation, Judicial Watch, and others in ordering the Justice Department (DOJ) and the FBI to turn over the memos to the court by April 1.
The memos in question include those Comey leaked to a “friend” with the intention of triggering the appointment of a special counsel. At least one of the memos contains classified information, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
The New York Times published an article based on Comey’s leaked memos on May 16, 2017, a week after Trump fired him. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller the day after The New York Times article.
Government watchdog groups and the media have been fighting to obtain the memos since their existence was revealed. CNN sued the FBI and DOJ on June 15, 2017, promptly after the government failed to turn over the memos via a Freedom of Information Act request.
As recently as March this year, the DOJ has argued that the release of the memos would interfere with the special counsel investigation. Attorney General William Barr announced that the special counsel finished his investigation March 22, clearing the path for the release of the memos.
Six of Comey’s nine memos have been released to the public but include redactions. The removal of the redactions could reveal which foreign leader called Trump first to congratulate him on the election victory, whether there was a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to spy on then-national security adviser Michael Flynn, and other items.
A group of 11 House Republicans referred Comey for criminal investigation in April last year over the leaking of the classified memo. The lawmakers also accused Comey of investigative misconduct and obstruction in the Clinton-email probe, as well as lying under oath about his decision to exonerate the former secretary of state.
Comey headed the FBI while the bureau conducted the investigations of both Hillary Clinton and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election. Trump fired Comey on a recommendation from Rosenstein, who wrote that Comey’s removal would restore “public confidence in the FBI.”
Comey faces additional scrutiny from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is delving deeper into the events that led up to the FBI obtaining a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign associate Carter Page.
Comey signed off on three of the four applications even though the FBI was aware that the core evidence in the document came from an unverified dossier compiled by a former foreign spy and was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Trump has called Comey a “dirty cop” and a “leaker.” Trump recently highlighted Comey’s leaking of the memos, remarking that it was “totally illegal.”
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A recent finding that former FBI Director James Comey began drafting a letter to exonerate Hillary Clinton of charges before she was interviewed by the FBI runs counter to statements Comey made under oath in September 2016.
Comey claimed that he made his decision to not recommend charges against Clinton only after she had been interviewed by the FBI in July 2016, but new evidence released by the Senate judiciary committee suggests otherwise.
“Comey began drafting a statement to announce the conclusion of the Clinton email investigation in April or May of 2016, before the FBI interviewed up to 17 key witnesses including former Secretary Clinton and several of her closest aides,” states an Aug. 31 press release announcing the finding by committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.
Contrary to the recent finding, Comey toldthe House judiciary committee under oath on Sept. 28, 2016, that it was only after Clinton was interviewed by the FBI on July 2, 2016, that he made his decision to not recommend charges.
He was pressed on this issue by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), who asked specifically whether Comey made his decision to not recommend charges before or after the Clinton interview.
Comey replied, “After.”
Comey then explained in more detail, stating, “All I can do is tell you again, the decision was made after that, because I didn’t know what was going to happen during that interview.”
Clinton came under investigation for her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state, in connection with the 2012 Benghazi attacks. This turned into a larger scandal after Clinton deleted 33,000 emails before handing over the files. Her staff also destroyed data, phones, and laptops requested for the investigations.
The latest finding is rooted in a separate investigation from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). At the request of Democrats in Congress last fall, OSC looked into whether Comey violated the Hatch Act, which prevents government employees from using their positions to influence an election. Comey had reopened the FBI investigation into Clinton just ahead of Election Day in 2016.
OSC closed its investigation after President Donald Trump fired Comey in May, but not before it interviewed two FBI officials close to Comey. These were James Rybicki, Comey’s chief of staff, and Trisha Anderson, the principal deputy general counsel of national security and cyberlaw.
Transcripts from the two interviews are now pieces of evidence in an investigation by the Senate judiciary committee into meddling in the 2016 elections.
“Both transcripts are heavily redacted without explanation,” states the Aug. 31 press release by Grassley and Graham.
Yet the limited available information reveals that Comey’s investigation into Clinton could have been little more than a show.
Trump pointed to the issue on Sept. 1, stating on Twitter, “Wow, looks like James Comey exonerated Hillary Clinton long before the investigation was over … and so much more. A rigged system!”
The latest finding also shows Comey drafted his statement before the FBI gave immunity agreements to Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson. The press release notes that the FBI’s agreement with Mills and Samuelson was that after a “very limited review of Secretary Clinton’s emails,” they would destroy their laptops, which were evidence in the case.
During the July 2, 2016, hearing, Rep. Ratcliffe had also pressed Comey on the decision to allow Mills and Samuelson to be present at Clinton’s hearing, despite being key witnesses in the case—a situation Ratcliffe noted is unheard of in normal investigation.
“To me, the only way that an interview takes place with the two central witnesses and the subject of the investigation, is if the decision has already been made that all three people in that room are not going to be charged,” Ratcliffe said at the hearing.
Ratcliffe also noted the large amount of evidence that was lost or destroyed during the investigation into Clinton—which he said should have been grounds to prosecute Clinton for obstruction of justice.
He read details on this from one of the FBI’s own reports, noting that the FBI wasn’t able to get access to the personal Apple server used for Clinton’s work emails, and that an Apple Macbook and a thumb drive containing Clinton’s email archives were lost. Two BlackBerry devices were given to the FBI without SD or SIM cards.
Another 13 of Clinton’s mobile devices, he said, were “lost, discarded, or destroyed with a hammer.”
Server backups were deleted, he said, and after the State Department and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) told Clinton they were seeking laptops of Clinton associates Mills and Samuelson, the laptops were “wiped clean with BleachBit,” a tool to erase data from computers.
After the emails were subpoenaed, Clinton’s email archive was also permanently deleted from its network and wiped with BleachBit. Then, after another subpoena, Clinton’s server backups were manually deleted.
“Any one of those in that very, very long list to me says obstruction of justice—collectively, they scream obstruction of justice—and to ignore them, I think, really allows not just reasonable prosecutors but reasonable people to believe that maybe the decision on this was made a long time ago, to not prosecute Hillary Clinton,” Ratcliffe stated.
Comey responded to his decision to overlook the missing and destroyed data, stating, “We’re in a fact-based world,” and that he can only “make assessments based on evidence we’re able to gather.”
Following the latest findings, Grassley and Graham are now requesting all drafts of Comey’s statement, which he used to close the Clinton investigation, as well as all emails and records that were previously provided to the OSC.
The senators state in an Aug. 30 open letter that according to transcripts they received, “in April or early May of 2016, Mr. Comey had already decided he would issue a statement exonerating Secretary Clinton.”
“That was long before FBI agents finished their work. Mr. Comey even circulated an early draft statement to select members of senior FBI leadership,” the letter states. “The outcome of an investigation should not be prejudged while FBI agents are still hard at work trying to gather the facts.”
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The Department of Justice will not prosecute former FBI director James Comey for leaking memos detailing his interactions with President Donald Trump.
According an Office of the Inspector General report released Thursday, Comey violated DOJ and FBI policies, as well as the FBI’s employment agreement, by keeping copies of four of his memos in a personal safe and asking a law professor friend to make one memo public after Trump fired him in May 2017.
“The responsibility to protect sensitive law enforcement information falls in large part to the employees of the FBI who have access to it through their daily duties,” Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrote in his report.
“Former Director Comey failed to live up to this responsibility,” the report said. “By not safeguarding sensitive information obtained during the course of his FBI employment, and by using it to create public pressure for official action, Comey set a dangerous example for the over 35,000 current FBI employees — and the many thousands more former FBI employees — who similarly have access to or knowledge of non-public information.”
The DOJ’s internal watchdog, which probed Comey’s handling of the sensitive documents, found that Comey’s friend leaked the contents of the memo to a reporter from The New York Times, but that it did not contain classified information. Comey shared all four memos with his private attorneys after his firing without alerting the FBI, the report said — another violation of policy — and one contained information classified at the Confidential level, which is the lowest level.
The inspector general “found no evidence that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the Memos to members of the media,” however, and the report said that the Justice Department has already made the decision not to prosecute Comey for this disclosure. NBC News reported earlier this month that the Justice Department would not bring charges.
Trump has repeatedly accused Comey have having leaked classified information, something Comey appeared to address Thursday after the report was made public.
“I don’t need a public apology from those who defamed me, but a quick message with a ‘sorry we lied about you’ would be nice,” the former FBI chief said on Twitter.
“And to all those who’ve spent two years talking about me ‘going to jail’ or being a ‘liar and a leaker’ —ask yourselves why you still trust people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president,” Comey added.
In June 2017 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey said he chose to share the existence of his memos publicly after Trump tweeted that May that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
Comey provided the memos to Daniel Richman, an attorney and a professor at Columbia University Law School, a week after Trump fired him. Richman then shared one — which detailed Comey’s recollection of a conversation with the president in which Trump suggested the FBI drop its investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn — with New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt.
Flynn was later charged with lying to the FBI.
“I was worried it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach if it was I who gave it to the media, so I asked my friend to,” Comey said of distributing the documents.
Comey said during his June 2017 testimony he believed the publication of the memos “might prompt the appointment of a special counsel” to lead the Russia investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take over not long after Comey’s firing.
Trump and his allies have repeatedly attacked the former FBI director for his actions, lambasting him on social media and to the press. Mueller concluded his investigation into Russian election interference and the president earlier this year, releasing a report that did not accuse Trump of having committed crimes but also “did not exonerate him” from allegations of obstruction of justice.
Asked earlier this month at the White House about the Justice Department not pursuing charges against Comey, Trump said “what James Comey did was illegal.”
In a statement following the release of Thursday’s report, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and a Trump ally who has led the charge against Comey and other investigatory figures, said the filing “is a disappointing reminder that the former FBI Director put partisanship and personal ambition over patriotism and his legal obligations to the American people.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement that the report “is a stunning and unprecedented rebuke of a former Director of the FBI.”
“This is the first of what I expect will be several more ugly and damning rebukes of senior DOJ and FBI officials regarding their actions and biases toward the Trump campaign of 2016,” the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman added. “I appreciate the time and effort Mr. Horowitz and his team spent documenting the off-the-rails behavior of Mr. Comey regarding the leaking of law enforcement materials to the media. I also appreciate Mr. Horowitz for reinforcing the proper standards expected of senior DOJ and FBI officials. Well done Mr. Horowitz.”
Matthew Miller, an Obama-era Justice Department spokesman and MSNBC contributor, tweeted: “This is perhaps the stupidest investigation the IG has ever done, and one of its dumber conclusions.”
“Talk about fiddling while Rome burns,” he said, adding in a subsequent tweet: “The IG has basically faulted Comey for speeding on his way to tell the village that a fire was coming. Such a narrowly-scoped view of the world.”