Department of Justice prosecutors reportedly are investigating the possibility that former FBI director James Comey leaked a classified Russian intelligence document to the media during the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails, according to a Thursday report from the New York Times.
Per the Times, the investigation is centered around two 2017 articles from the Times and the Washington Post describing the Russian document, which played a key role in Comey’s unilateral decision to announce in July 2016 that the FBI would not pursue charges against Clinton for using a private email server to conduct official business during her time as secretary of state.
The document, which Dutch intelligence shared with the U.S., includes an analysis of an email exchange between Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.), who was then chairing the Democratic National Committee, and Leonard Bernardo, an official with the Soros-backed non-profit Open Society Foundations. Wasserman Schultz assures Bernardo in the email that then–attorney general Loretta Lynch would make sure Clinton wasn’t charged in the email probe.
Both Bernardo and Wasserman Schultz have denied ever having the exchange, and the FBI’s assessment claimed that the document was a fake and part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
Department of Justice inspector general Michael Horowitz said in a review of Comey’s actions over the Clinton probe — and its subsequent reopening in October 2016 — that the former FBI director had a “troubling lack of any direct, substantive communication” with Lynch over his decisions.
Both 2017 articles cite Comey’s private concern that if Lynch had announced no charges for Clinton, the Russians could have released the document to cast doubt on whether the investigation was ethical. They also cite Comey’s decision not to tell Lynch that he was declining to charge Clinton as a way of protecting the FBI’s political independence.
Investigators are examining whether Comey’s personal lawyer, Daniel Richman, gave the Russian document to reporters. Richman played a key role in a different, confirmed leak that Comey orchestrated to hand over memos of his private encounters with President Trump in the early days of the Trump administration.
“I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter,” Comey testified to Congress in June 2017. “I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”
In August, Horowitz found that Comey violated policy and set a “dangerous example” for the rank-and-file by retaining and leaking the memos. Horowitz referred Comey for potential prosecution over the matter, but the DOJ declined to prosecute.
Comey has long taken criticism for his handling of the Clinton investigation from Republicans and President Trump, who suggested in December that Comey could get jail time.
So now Comey’s admitting he was wrong. Wow, but he’s only doing so because he got caught red handed. He was actually caught a long time ago. So what are the consequences for his unlawful conduct. Could it be years in jail? Where are the apologies to me and others, Jim?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2019