Federal law enforcement officials are reportedly investigating whether disgraced former FBI Director James Comey illegally leaked classified information about a Russian intelligence document to reporters.
“Law enforcement officials are scrutinizing at least two news articles about the F.B.I. and Mr. Comey, published in The New York Times and The Washington Post in 2017, that mentioned the Russian government document, according to the people familiar with the investigation,” The New York Times reported. “Hackers working for Dutch intelligence officials obtained the document and provided it to the F.B.I., and both its existence and the collection of it were highly classified secrets, the people said.”
The Times continued, “The document played a key role in Mr. Comey’s decision to sideline the Justice Department and announce in July 2016 that the F.B.I. would not recommend that Hillary Clinton face charges in her use of a private email server to conduct government business while secretary of state.”
The Times noted that the document in question came from Dutch intelligence operatives who scraped sensitive information from Russian computers, which included an alleged email exchange between then-Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and an official of leftist billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.
The email, which Wasserman Schultz and the official from Open Society Foundations both deny, apparently suggested that then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch would make sure that the Department of Justice did not criminally prosecute then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“That document was one of the key factors that drove Mr. Comey to hold a news conference in July 2016 announcing that investigators would recommend no charges against Mrs. Clinton,” The Times added. “Typically, senior Justice Department officials would decide how to proceed in such a high-profile case, but Mr. Comey was concerned that if Ms. Lynch played a central role in deciding whether to charge Mrs. Clinton, Russia could leak the email.”
The Times framed their report in a highly favorable manner toward Comey as the report repeatedly raised the possibility that the investigation was politically motivated and that federal prosecutors have been overly aggressive in the District of Columbia because U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu is “an ambitious prosecutor who has angled for bigger jobs in the Trump administration.”
The Times continued:
Previously, federal prosecutors in New York scrutinized Mr. Comey after his personal lawyer and friend, Daniel C. Richman, provided the contents of a memo about Mr. Comey’s interactions with Mr. Trump to a Times reporter at Mr. Comey’s request. Though officials retroactively determined that the memo contained classified information, prosecutors declined to charge Mr. Comey with illegally disclosing the material. The Justice Department’s inspector general, who had examined Mr. Comey’s conduct and referred his findings to prosecutors in New York, concluded that Mr. Comey violated F.B.I. policy.
Prosecutors are also looking at whether Mr. Richman might have played a role in providing the information to reporters about the Russia document and how it figured into Mr. Comey’s rationale about the news conference, according to the people familiar with the investigation. Mr. Comey hired Mr. Richman at one point to consult for the F.B.I. about encryption and other complex legal issues, and investigators have expressed interest in how he operated.
The Department of Justice inspector general slammed Comey in a previous investigation for illegally leaking sensitive information to the press “in order to achieve a personally desired outcome.”
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,” The inspector general wrote. “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.”