On Thursday, memos written by then-FBI Director James Comey, including four he leaked to the media after being fired by President Trump, were given to Congress by the Department of Justice and immediately leaked to media outlets. Now we've learned the DOJ's internal watchdog is reviewing the memos Comey leaked for the potential illegal disclosure of classified information. Here's what you need to know.
1. At least two of the memos Comey leaked contained classified information.
Some of the information on the four leaked memos Comey recognized at the time to be classified, so he redacted it. However, in one memo, he did not redact information that has since been determined to be classified, much like some of the information Hillary Clinton sent through her illegal private email server. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Of those two memos, Mr. Comey himself redacted elements of one that he knew to be classified to protect secrets before he handed the documents over to his friend. He determined at the time that another memo contained no classified information, but after he left the Federal Bureau of Investigation, bureau officials upgraded it to “confidential,” the lowest level of classification.
2. Comey claims the memos were his personal property, but the FBI says otherwise.
In his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017, in which he revealed that he deliberately leaked memos to the media, he said it was his opinion that they were his private property. "My view was that the content of those unclassified memorialization of those conversations was my recollection recorded," he said.
However, as The Hill reported a month later, the FBI revealed that Comey's memos contained classified information and were the property of the government because he created them while serving as a government agent. Clause 1 of the agreement signed by all FBI agents forbids the "unauthorized disclosure" of classified information or information that could violate due process. Clause 2 clearly states that "all information" and "all official material" acquired in connection to one's official duties in the bureau are "the property of the United States of America":
1. Unauthorized disclosure, misuse, or negligent handling of information contained in the files, electronic or paper, of the FBI or which I may acquire as an employee of the FBI could impair national security, place human life in jeopardy, result in the denial of due process, prevent the FBI from effectively discharging its responsibilities, or violate federal law. I understand that by being granted access to such information, I am accepting a position of special trust and am obligated to protect such information from unauthorized disclosure.
2. All information acquired by me in connection with my official duties with the FBI and all official material to which I have access remain the property of the United States of America. I will surrender upon demand by the FBI, or upon my separation from the FBI, all materials containing FBI information in my possession.
3. Comey leaked the memos in order to create the special counsel investigation of Trump.
Comey famously admitted that his goal for leaking the four memos to the media was to prompt the creation of a special counsel to investigate his firing as possibly obstruction of justice. "I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter," Comey said in the June 2017 testimony. "I didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel." Comey's game was successful: Shortly after he was fired, Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed and he was given wide-ranging authority to investigate anything he determined to be related to the Russia "collusion" matter.
4. The memos give no evidence of obstruction of justice.
As highlighted by Daily Wire's Ben Shapiro, "there’s nothing in the memos that suggests Trump was actually attempting to obstruct justice":
Upon release of the memos, Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and Trey Gowdy (R-SC) rightly tore into Comey. They stated that the memos "show the President made clear he wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated." Furthermore, the memos demonstrate that Trump didn’t want the Russia election interference investigation ended, but the suggestion that he had engaged in lewd personal conduct. And as the Congressmen point out, "The memos also show former Director Comey never wrote that he felt obstructed or threatened."