Inspector general says Comey violated policy by leaking memos, but DOJ declines to prosecute

"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," Comey tweeted Thursday.

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By Allan Smith

The Department of Justice will not prosecute former FBI director James Comey for leaking memos detailing his interactions with President Donald Trump.

According an Office of the Inspector General report released Thursday, Comey violated DOJ and FBI policies, as well as the FBI's employment agreement, by keeping copies of four of his memos in a personal safe and asking a law professor friend to make one memo public after Trump fired him in May 2017.

"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," Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrote in his report.

"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 DOJ's internal watchdog, which probed Comey's handling of the sensitive documents, found that Comey's friend leaked the contents of the memo to a reporter from The New York Times, but that it did not contain classified information. Comey shared all four memos with his private attorneys after his firing without alerting the FBI, the report said — another violation of policy — and one contained information classified at the Confidential level, which is the lowest level.

The inspector general "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," however, and the report said that the Justice Department has already made the decision not to prosecute Comey for this disclosure. NBC News reported earlier this month that the Justice Department would not bring charges.

Trump has repeatedly accused Comey have having leaked classified information, something Comey appeared to address Thursday after the report was made public.

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"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," the former FBI chief said on Twitter.

"And to all those who’ve spent two years talking about me 'going to jail' or being a 'liar and a leaker' —ask yourselves why you still trust people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president," Comey added.

Trump responded to the report's release Thursday afternoon, saying Comey "should be ashamed of himself."

"Perhaps never in the history of our Country has someone been more thoroughly disgraced and excoriated than James Comey in the just released Inspector General’s Report," Trump said.

In June 2017 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey said he chose to share the existence of his memos publicly after Trump tweeted that May that Comey "better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"

Comey provided the memos to Daniel Richman, an attorney and a professor at Columbia University Law School, a week after Trump fired him. Richman then shared one — which detailed Comey's recollection of a conversation with the president in which Trump suggested the FBI drop its investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn — with New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt.

Flynn was later charged with lying to the FBI.

“I was worried it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach if it was I who gave it to the media, so I asked my friend to," Comey said of distributing the documents.

Comey said during his June 2017 testimony he believed the publication of the memos "might prompt the appointment of a special counsel" to lead the Russia investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take over not long after Comey's firing.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly attacked the former FBI director for his actions, lambasting him on social media and to the press. Mueller concluded his investigation into Russian election interference and the president earlier this year, releasing a report that did not accuse Trump of having committed crimes but also "did not exonerate him" from allegations of obstruction of justice.

Asked earlier this month at the White House about the Justice Department not pursuing charges against Comey, Trump said "what James Comey did was illegal."

In a statement following the release of Thursday's report, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and a Trump ally who has led the charge against Comey and other investigatory figures, said the filing "is a disappointing reminder that the former FBI Director put partisanship and personal ambition over patriotism and his legal obligations to the American people."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement that the report "is a stunning and unprecedented rebuke of a former Director of the FBI."

"This is the first of what I expect will be several more ugly and damning rebukes of senior DOJ and FBI officials regarding their actions and biases toward the Trump campaign of 2016," the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman added. "I appreciate the time and effort Mr. Horowitz and his team spent documenting the off-the-rails behavior of Mr. Comey regarding the leaking of law enforcement materials to the media. I also appreciate Mr. Horowitz for reinforcing the proper standards expected of senior DOJ and FBI officials. Well done Mr. Horowitz."

Matthew Miller, an Obama-era Justice Department spokesman and MSNBC contributor, tweeted: "This is perhaps the stupidest investigation the IG has ever done, and one of its dumber conclusions."

"Talk about fiddling while Rome burns," he said, adding in a subsequent tweet: "The IG has basically faulted Comey for speeding on his way to tell the village that a fire was coming. Such a narrowly-scoped view of the world."