Did the man who gave Hillary Clinton a pass for mishandling classified material commit the same misconduct? Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton announced yesterday that a new trove of material from a FOIA demand shows that the FBI had to retrieve several memos written by James Comey as FBI director and retained at his home after being fired by Donald Trump. The seizure of the documents might have prompted Comey’s admission to Congress the next day of leaking them to a reporter through a cut-out:
Judicial Watch announced today it received six pages of records from the FBI showing that in June, 2017, a month after FBI Director James Comey was fired by President Donald Trump, FBI agents visited his home and collected “as evidence” four memos that allegedly detail conversations he had with President Trump. One of his memos was written on June 6, a month after he was fired.
Comey was fired by Trump on May 9, 2017. The memos obtained by Judicial Watch were collected from Comey by the FBI on June 7, a month later, and are dated February 14, 2017; March 30, 2017; April 11, 2017; and one is dated “last night at 6:30 pm.”
The FBI documents also revealed that Comey recalled writing two other memos after conversations with Trump that he claimed were “missing.” The FBI visit and interview took place on June 7, the day before Comey admitted leaking the memos in testimony to Congress.
Fitton refers to the documents as “newly classified,” and demands that a criminal investigation begin into Comey’s actions:
“These extraordinary FBI docs further confirm that James Comey should never have had FBI files on President Trump at his home and that the FBI failed to secure and protect these private and classified files,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Mr. Comey’s illegal leaking these FBI files as part of his vendetta against President Trump (directly resulting in the corrupt appointment of Robert Mueller) ought to be the subject of a criminal investigation.”
On June 8, 2017, Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that he leaked memos of his conversations with President Trump “because (he) thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.” Columbia University Law professor Daniel Richman, a friend of Comey’s, reportedly“turned over copies of the former FBI director’s explosive memos … to the FBI, sidestepping a request by congressional committees to deliver the materials to Capitol Hill.”
The Justice Department previously argued to the court in a separate case that Comey’s leak of the memo regarding former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was unauthorized and compared it to WikiLeaks. Comey admitted to Congress regarding the “Flynn” memo, “I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter [for The New York Times] … I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.” The New York Times published a report about the memo on May 16, 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed the following day.
We knew about the leaks two years ago, and thus we already knew that Comey had retained the material. It created a debate at the time as to whether Comey had violated rules and/or laws regarding document handling. Comey’s defenders claimed that the memos were personal, but his role as FBI director and the clear purpose of the memos made them work product, at least arguably. To the extent the documents discussed classified information, Comey would have had to store them with proper regard to their classification regardless of his job status or commit a violation of the same kind Hillary committed — and for which Comey gave her a pass. However, it’s not quite clear what the FBI classified and why.
What wasn’t known, or at least not widely known, was the timing. Comey had been scheduled well in advance to testify on June 8, 2017. The run-up to that testimony was akin to the anticipation of Robert Mueller’s testimony last week, if not even greater, with some brinksmanship between Comey and the White House taking place for several days prior to his appearance. What caused the FBI to drop by Comey’s house the day before his testimony, and did that have anything to do with Comey’s decision to come clean about the leak? Did Comey himself invite the FBI to come get the memos? Either way, why hadn’t Comey turned the memos over immediately after Robert Mueller’s appointment?
We may know the answers to these questions sooner rather than later. Trump’s attorneys had demanded that the Inspector General investigate Comey’s actions with the memos, but Michael Horowitz ended up conducting a much wider investigation into the FBI’s actions in Operation Crossfire Hurricane. That report is due to come out soon — perhaps as soon as next month — and early rumors say that it will not paint Comey in a favorable light. If in fact the report does show that Comey lied to Trump to set him up and used a spy inside the White House, these memos might be the least of Comey’s troubles, and for that matter the FBI’s.