Moments ago, the Inspector General of the Department of Justice released its report on former FBI Director James Comey, “Report of Investigation of Former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey’s Disclosure of Sensitive Investigative Information and Handling of Certain Memoranda”
Upon completing our investigation, pursuant to Section 4(d) of the Inspector General Act of 1978, the OIG provided a copy of its factual findings to the Department for a prosecutorial decision regarding Comey’s conduct. See 5 U.S.C.A. App. 3 § 4(d) (2016). After reviewing the matter, the Department declined prosecution. Thereafter, we prepared this report to consider whether Comey’s actions violated Department or FBI policy, or the terms of Comey’s FBI Employment Agreement. As described in this report, we conclude that Comey’s retention, handling, and dissemination of certain Memos violated Department and FBI policies, and his FBI Employment Agreement.
Page 4: Comey claimed the memos he leaked in retaliation for President Trump's firing of him were personal but "Merely labeling a document as 'personal' or 'private' does not alter the official nature of a document if it is 'used in the transaction of public business.'
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) August 29, 2019
Comey told the OIG that he considered Memos 2 through 7 to be his personal documents, rather than official FBI records. He said he viewed these Memos as “a personal aide-mémoire,” “like [his] diary” or “like [his] notes,” which contained his “recollection[s]” of his conversations with President Trump. Comey further stated that he kept Memos 2, 4, 6, and 7 in a personal safe at home because he believed the documents were personal records rather than FBI records.
Comey’s characterization of the Memos as personal records finds no support in the law and is wholly incompatible with the plain language of the statutes, regulations, and policies defining Federal records, and the terms of Comey’s FBI Employment Agreement
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.
Comey violated FBI policies and the requirements of his FBI Employment Agreement when he sent a copy of Memo 4 to Richman with instructions to provide the contents to a reporter, and when he transmitted copies of Memos 2, 4, 6, and a redacted version of 7 to his three attorneys.
When asked by the OIG whether he considered that disclosure of this information would significantly affect FBI equities, Comey stated that he would “frame it differently.” He said he viewed the issue as one of “incredible importance to the Nation, as a whole” and told us he felt that taking action was “something I [had] to do if I love this country…and I love the Department of Justice, and I love the FBI.” However, Comey’s own, personal conception of what was necessary was not an appropriate basis for ignoring the policies and agreements governing the use of FBI records, especially given the other lawful and appropriate actions he could have taken to achieve his desired end.
By providing Memos 2, 4, 6, and 7 to his attorneys without seeking FBI approval, Comey took for himself the “carte blanche authority” expressly denied by the courts, in clear violation of the FBI’s Prepublication Review Policy and the requirements of Comey’s FBI Employment Agreement.
The FBI did not learn that Comey had shared any of the Memos with anyone outside the FBI until Comey’s June 8, 2017 congressional testimony. During his testimony, Comey stated that he provided Memo 4 to a friend to share the contents with a reporter.
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 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.
We have previously faulted Comey for acting unilaterally and inconsistent with Department policy.103 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. 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.
James Comey claims vindication:
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
CNN, however, concedes this report is damning for Comey:
CNN says the IG report on James Comey was very "damning" for him as he violated FBI policies pic.twitter.com/3MGzhM9e8B
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) August 29, 2019
Brit Hume mocks Comey:
So Comey wants an apology because while he violated department policy and his contractual obligations by leaking, he didn’t leak classified info. How about a “sorry I leaked that information in violation of both policy and my contract?” https://t.co/Ny3Oxe8p7t
— Brit Hume (@brithume) August 29, 2019
This is a developing story. Updates to follow.