Former FBI director rebuked over leaked memos about Trump

A January 2017 file photo of then FBI director James Comey (at right) meeting President Donald Trump in the White House. Mr Comey wrote memos after meeting Mr Trump early in his presidency, saying later that he wanted to document the encounters as he
A January 2017 file photo of then FBI director James Comey (right) meeting President Donald Trump in the White House. Mr Comey wrote memos after meeting Mr Trump early in his presidency, saying later that he wanted to document the encounters as he was worried that the President would lie about their discussions.PHOTO: NYTIMES

Comey violated policy by giving info to lawyers: US Justice Dept

WASHINGTON • Former FBI director James Comey violated policy by disclosing memos about his interactions with US President Donald Trump to people outside the bureau, said a blistering Justice Department inspector-general report released on Thursday. The report admonished him for setting "a dangerous example" for officials with access to government secrets.

The inspector-general, Mr Michael E. Horowitz, faulted Mr Comey for handing the memos over to his lawyers, one of whom provided the contents of one document to a New York Times reporter at Mr Comey's request.

Though officials retroactively determined that they contained classified information, prosecutors declined to charge Mr Comey with illegally disclosing the material.

Mr Comey has said he helped make the information public in part to bring about the appointment of a special counsel.

"Comey violated FBI policy and the requirements of his FBI employment agreement when he chose this path," the report said.

Mr Trump wasted little time in using the report's conclusions to attack Mr Comey, whom the President fired abruptly in 2017 and partly blames for opening the Russia investigation.

"He should be ashamed of himself!" Mr Trump wrote on Twitter, dismissing Mr Comey as "thoroughly disgraced and excoriated" by the report.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham accused Mr Comey of being "a proven liar and leaker", adding that he "disgraced himself and his office to further a personal political agenda, and this report further confirms that fact".

The inspector-general laid out a litany of problems with Mr James Comey's actions. In addition to concluding that the memos were FBI property, not his, the report noted that Mr Comey failed to return them to the FBI after he was fired.

But the inspector-general's report found no evidence that Mr Comey had lied during his interviews or that politics had influenced his efforts to prompt the appointment of a special counsel.

Mr Comey responded on Thursday by noting that the report found he had broken no laws and criticising those who had accused him of lying or leaking information.

"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," he wrote on Twitter, challenging his critics to stop trusting "people who gave you bad information for so long, including the President".

Mr Comey wrote memos after meeting Mr Trump early in his presidency, saying later that he wanted to document the encounters because he was worried that the President would lie about their discussions. Mr Trump and his allies accused Mr Comey of illegally leaking the memos.

The inspector-general laid out a litany of problems with Mr Comey's actions. In addition to concluding that the memos were FBI property, not his, the report noted that Mr Comey failed to return them to the FBI after he was fired.

At issue in part is who owns the information in the memos: Mr Comey or the FBI. While Mr Comey said he believed that two of his memos were his personal documents, all of the senior leaders interviewed by the inspector-general disagreed, believing they were the property of the FBI.

But the inspector-general acknowledged that Mr Comey did not leak any classified information to the news media.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2019, with the headline 'Former FBI director rebuked over leaked memos about Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe