The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Inspector General (OIG) just released its formal report on the conduct of former FBI Director James Comey following his firing in May of 2017, and it is scathing. The OIG report concluded that Comey stole federal documents, improperly disclosed FBI records, leaked classified information, and violated FBI policies.
“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.”
“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.”
Leaked Records Were Government Property
After President Donald Trump fired him on May 9, 2017, Comey proceeded to leak multiple FBI records as part of a plan to get revenge on Trump for firing him. Although Comey claimed in sworn congressional testimony that the records he prepared on government computers, on government time, as part of his formal governmental duties were his own personal property, the OIG determined that the records he leaked were 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.”
The Federalist‘s Bre Payton reported in June of 2017 that Comey had likely violated his own agreement with the FBI by leaking FBI records after he was fired.
Comey Harbored and Shared FBI Documents
The DOJ OIG also determined that Comey leaked classified information to at least three people and failed to disclose the existence of at least four leaked documents, even after top FBI brass and multiple FBI agents confronted him at his home about the matter.
“We found it particularly concerning that Comey did not tell anyone from the FBI that he had retained copies of the Memos in his personal safe at home, even when his Chief of Staff, the FBI’s Associate Deputy Director, and three SSAs came to Comey’s house on May 12, 2017, to inventory and remove all FBI property,” the investigators wrote in the report.
“The FBI’s Safeguarding Classified National Security Information Policy Guide clearly states that ‘[a]ny person who has knowledge that classified information has been or may have been lost, compromised, or disclosed to an unauthorized person must immediately report the circumstances to his or her security office,’” the report declared. “Comey violated this requirement by failing to immediately inform the FBI that he provided Memo 2 to his attorneys.”
The OIG also blasted Comey for his use of a special FBI employee and personal friend whom Comey only later claimed was his personal attorney as a leak conduit for classified government records. As The Federalist reported in January of 2018, Comey’s use of Daniel Richman, a law professor whom Comey characterized only as a “friend” during sworn congressional testimony, was an obvious attempt by Comey to shield himself from liability for improperly leaking classified information. The OIG report also confirmed that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was correct when he noted in a Jan. 3, 2018, letter to then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that “at least one memo” that Comey leaked to Richman “contained classified information.”
“By providing Memos 2, 4, 6, and 7 to his attorneys without seeking FBI approval, Comey took for himself the ‘carte blanche authority’ expressly denied by the courts, in clear violation of the FBI’s Prepublication Review Policy and the requirements of Comey’s FBI Employment Agreement,” the OIG found. “As a result, Comey not only disclosed sensitive law enforcement information to his personal counsel but also a small amount of information contained in Memo 2 that the FBI subsequently determined was classified at the ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ level.”
Law Enforcement Officers Are Not Above the Law
According to the OIG report, Comey’s own associates were shocked by his behavior and decision to leak sensitive government records in retaliation for being fired.
“Members of Comey’s senior leadership team used the adjectives ‘surprised,’ ‘stunned,’ ‘shocked,’ and ‘disappointment’ to describe their reactions to learning that Comey acted on his own to provide the contents of Memo 4, through Richman, to a reporter.”
The report summarizing the OIG’s investigation of James Comey’s behavior 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.”
You can read the full report on the investigation into James Comey’s improper behavior and multiple violations of FBI policies after he was fired here.