The inspector general for the Department of Justice released its report on fired FBI Director James Comey, Thursday, concluding that he leaked “sensitive” government records and violated DOJ rules, setting “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 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,” the OIG report found. “Former Director Comey failed to live up to this responsibility.”
The office said he “violated applicable policies and his FBI Employment Agreement by providing one of the unclassified memos that contained official FBI information, including sensitive investigative information, to his friend with instructions for the friend to share the contents of the memo with a reporter.”
Comey on Twitter Thursday, suggested that the report exonerated him because the report didn’t find that he released classified information to members of the media and urged his critics to tell him “sorry we lied about you.”
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
Shortly after being fired by President Trump, Comey vindictively leaked several FBI records to his lawyer friend Daniel Richman, with instructions to share the intel with a New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt.
The disgraced former director testified to congress under oath on May 9, 2017, that the memos were his own personal property, even though he had prepared the records on government computers, on government time, as part of his formal governmental duties.
The OIG determined that the records he leaked were indeed government property and that he violated multiple policies and potentially even federal law in leaking them.
“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,” the OIG determined. “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.”
In one scathing passage, the report slammed Comey for disclosing sensitive information.
“[E]ven 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,” the report said. “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 report concluded by noting how important it is for law enforcement officials, regardless of how powerful or important they think they are, to follow the same laws they enforce against others.
“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,” the report noted in its conclusion. “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.”
The findings of the probe were forwarded to the DOJ, but the department has declined prosecution, reportedly because they didn’t think they had enough evidence to prove that Comey intended to violate the law.
The DOJ reportedly did not want to “make its first case against the Russia investigators with such thin margins and look petty and vindictive,” a source told the Hill’s John Solomon last month, explaining the DOJ’s rationale for declining to prosecute a technical violation.
However, Comey is not off the hook. There are currently two other outstanding investigations into the DOJ and FBI’s conduct during the 2016 election: the larger OIG report on alleged surveillance abuse, which is expected in the near future and the ongoing probe by U.S. Attorney John Durham into the origins of the Mueller investigation. Additionally, there is a third investigation by U.S. Attorney John Huber looking into issues related to the sale of Uranium One, as well as broader claims of corruption at the Clinton Foundation.