Former FBI director James Comey violated bureau policy and set a “dangerous example” for the rank-and-file by retaining and leaking memos that detailed his private conversations with President Trump, the Department of Justice inspector general said in a report released Thursday.
The report was referred to the DOJ for potential prosecution earlier this summer, but prosecutors declined to file charges.
Comey admitted during his 2017 Senate testimony that he kept seven memos detailing private conversations with the president and, after being fired, leaked them to a friend, Columbia University Law School professor Daniel Richman, with the instruction to share the documents with a New York Times reporter.
The most significant memo recounts Trump’s efforts to convince Comey to drop an ongoing investigation into former national-security adviser Michael Flynn, who was then being investigated for undisclosed contacts with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Comey recalled Trump saying, according to a copy of the memo.
Flynn pled guilty in late 2017 to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with the Kislyak.
Comey disputed the Trump administration’s characterization of his conduct as “leaking” in his 2018 memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership.
“To be clear, this was not a ‘leak’ of classified information no matter how many times politicians, political pundits, or the president call it that. A private citizen may legally share unclassified details of a conversation with the president with the press, or include that information in a book,” Comey wrote in his 2018 memoir.
He continued to stress his innocence in a series of Thursday morning tweets.
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
Copies of Comey’s memos that were provided to Congress revealed that four of the documents were labeled “secret” or “confidential” while the remaining three were unmarked.