DOJ IG: ‘Comey’s Retention, Handling, and Dissemination of Certain Memos Violated’ DOJ, FBI Policies
Comey brags on Twitter: At least I’m not going to jail.
The Department of Justice Inspector General released his long-awaited report into former FBI director James Comey’s handling of sensitive investigative information and the way he handled certain memos.
The IG found “no evidence” that Comey or his lawyers provided the media with classified information.
However, the IG “concluded that Comey’s retention, handling, and dissemination of certain Memos violated Department and FBI policies, and his FBI Employment Agreement.”
Here is some background from The Los Angeles Times:
Comey wrote seven memos about his interactions with Trump. They started with his briefing of the president-elect at Trump Tower on Jan. 6, 2017, about the contents of a controversial and salacious dossier by a former British spy about Russia’s meddling in the election and its dealings with the business mogul.
The former FBI director said he wrote the memos after interactions with Trump because he knew he “would need a record of what had happened, not just to defend myself, but to defend the FBI.”
“It was a combination of circumstances, subject matter and the particular person,” Comey told Congress in June 2017.
Comey testified he kept the memos in a safe at his home and showed one to Richman so he could describe its contents to a New York Times reporter. The resulting article documented how Comey believed that Trump had tried to improperly pressure him in the Oval Office to drop an investigation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
IG Michael Horowitz had the task to investigate “allegations that Comey had mishandled classified information when he showed a copy of a memo to a longtime friend, Daniel Richman, a Columbia University law professor.”
Horowitz had to investigate if Comey knew “some sentences in the memos included classified information.”
The DOJ decided earlier this month not to prosecute Comey over his mishandling of the confidential memos.
Comey immediately responded on Twitter, but left out that crucial piece of 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.” 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.
— James Comey (@Comey) August 29, 2019
Comey glossed over the fact that the IG found he violated DOJ and FBI policies.
The IG pointed out that Comey told Congress in March 2017 “the FBI is very careful in how we handle information about our cases and about the people we are investigating” because they “need to protect people’s privacy.”
However, Comey kept one memo “without authorization.” He handed over that memo “to Richman with instructions to share the contents with a reporter from The New York Times.”
This memo “included information that was related to both the FBI’s ongoing investigation of Flynn and, by Comey’s own account, information that he believed and alleged constituted evidence of an attempt to obstruct the ongoing Flynn investigation.”
The NYT proceeded to publish an article on the memo on the same day.
Horowitz wrote (emphasis mine):
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. On occasion, some of these employees may disagree with decisions by prosecutors, judges, or higher ranking FBI and Department officials about the actions to take or not take in criminal and counterintelligence matters. They may even, in some situations, distrust the legitimacy of those supervisory, prosecutorial, or judicial decisions. But even when these employees believe that their most strongly-held personal convictions might be served by an unauthorized disclosure, the FBI depends on them not to disclose sensitive information.
Former Director Comey failed to live up to this responsibility. 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. Comey said he was compelled to take these actions “if I love this country…and I love the Department of Justice, and I love the FBI.” However, were current or former FBI employees to follow the former Director’s example and disclose sensitive information in service of their own strongly held personal convictions, the FBI would be unable to dispatch its law enforcement duties properly, as Comey himself noted in his March 20, 2017 congressional testimony. Comey expressed a similar concern to President Trump, according to Memo 4, in discussing leaks of FBI information, telling Trump that the FBI’s ability to conduct its work is compromised “if people run around telling the press what we do.” This is no doubt part of the reason why Comey’s closest advisors used the words “surprised,” “stunned,” “shocked,” and “disappointment” to describe their reactions to learning what Comey had done.
Horowitz stressed that FBI employees must “adhere to Department and FBI policies,” especially when they come across “extraordinary circumstances or compelling personal convictions.”
The IG criticized Comey for not using the “several other lawful options available to him to advocate for the appointment of a Special Counsel.” He told the IG office that a Special Counsel “was his goal in making the disclosure.”
Horowitz reminded Comey:
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.
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