JUNE 8, 2017: COMEY ADMITS TO LEAKING TO THE MEDIA
by Sharon Rondeau
ames Comey(Jun. 8, 2017) — On March 20, then-FBI Director James Comey testified to the House Intelligence Committee that leaking of classified government information constitutes “serious, serious federal crimes for a reason” and instances of it “should be investigated and where possible prosecuted in a way that reflects that seriousness so that people understand it simply cannot be tolerated.”
The hearing took place as a result of a series of leaks which began several weeks before Donald Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017 and included the public identification of Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser; some of the content of Trump’s first telephone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull; and details from a call between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Trump publicly said that his administration would work to identify and prosecute leakers of classified information, the specific statutes of which were detailed in congressional testimony by an assistant attorney general in 2012.
Last month, almost-daily articles in The New York Times and The Washington Post painted the White House as being “in chaos;” as Trump’s having released “highly classified information” to two Russian diplomats; and as having referred to Comey to the same parties as “a nut job” following Comey’s dismissal on May 9.
While the essence of the information Comey leaked through a third party to left-leaning press outlets might not have been classified, it was termed “privileged” by Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, in a six-minute address made to reporters on Thursday afternoon following Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
In his remarks, Kasowitz added that it appears that certain individuals within the federal government are attempting to sabotage the Trump administration.
On May 3, 2017, Comey’s prepared remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee included that the FBI’s primary goal is to protect the U.S. from future terrorist attacks.
Under the heading of “Public Corruption,” Comey’s written statement said:
In Comey’s testimony to the committee on the topic of “FBI Oversight,” Chairman Charles Grassley held the following exchange with Comey as provided by The Washington Post:
GRASSLEY: And thank you for your opening statement. I’m going to start out probably with a couple subjects you wish I didn’t bring up, and then a third one that I think everybody needs to hear your opinion on on a policy issue. It is frustrating when the FBI refuses to answer this committee’s questions, but leaks relevant information to the media. In other words, they don’t talk to us, but somebody talks to the media.
Director Comey, have you ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?
GRASSLEY: Question two, relatively related, have you ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?
GRASSLEY: Has any classified information relating to President Trump or his association — associates been declassified and shared with the media?
COMEY: Not to my knowledge.
GRASSLEY: You testified before the House Intelligence Committee that a lot of classified matters have ended up in the media recently. Without getting into any particular article — I want to emphasize that, without getting into any particular article — is there an investigation of any leaks of classified information relating to Mr. Trump or his associates?
COMEY: I don’t want to — I don’t want to answer that question, senator, for reasons I think you know. There have been a variety of leaks — well, leaks are always a problem, but especially in the last three to six months.
And where there is a leak of classified information, the FBI — if it’s our information — makes a referral to the Department of Justice. Or if it’s another agency’s information, they do the same. And then DOJ authorizes the opening of an investigation. I don’t want to confirm in an open setting whether there are any investigations open.
GRASSLEY: You — I want to challenge you on that because the government regularly acknowledges when it’s investigating classified leaks. You did that in the Valerie Plame case. What’s the difference here?
COMEY: Well, the most important difference is I don’t have authorization from the department to confirm any of the investigations they’ve authorized. And it may be that we can get that at some point, but I’m not going to do it sitting here in an open setting without having talked to them.
GRASSLEY: And I can — you can expect me to follow up on that offer.
GRASSLEY: There are several senior FBI officials who would’ve had access to the classified information that was leaked, including yourself and the deputy director. So how can the Justice Department guarantee the integrity of the investigations without designating an agency, other than the FBI, to gather the facts and eliminate senior FBI officials as suspects?
COMEY: Well, I’m not going to answer about any particular investigations but there are — I know of situations in the past where if you think the FBI or its leadership are suspects, you have another investigative agency support the investigation by federal prosecutors. It can be done. It has been done in the past.
On June 8, 2017, Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that he leaked a memo he allegedly wrote documenting a conversation between Trump and him which reportedly took place on February 14, one day after Flynn was forced to resign after his name was leaked to the press and his credibility thereupon called into question.
Comey said that he handed the “memos” to a “good friend” employed at Columbia Law School with instructions that he “get it to the press” with the expectation that public pressure would prompt the Justice Department to hire a Special Counsel to continue the Russia probes begun by the FBI.
Meanwhile, Comey testified, he and his wife went away “to hide” from the press in the aftermath of his firing.
Following Comey’s more-than-two-hour sworn testimony, Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News wrote that Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, misspoke when he said that information from Comey’s memos recounting his conversations with Trump emerged in a New York Times article dated May 11, one day before Trump tweeted that “tapes” may exist of his interactions with Comey. Some saw Trump’s May 12 tweet as a warning to Comey made “before he starts leaking to the press,” as Trump expressed it.
While The Times author, Michael S. Schmidt, did not cite a memo per se in his article about a January 27, 2017 private dinner between Trump and Comey, Comey himself stated that he memorialized the event in a memo in his prepared remarks released on Wednesday.
The press did not immediately appear to question whether or not Comey’s purposeful release of his “memos” to the press through his Columbia associate constituted an ethical or legal complication. Of the transmitter of the information to the press, The New York Post wrote:
A Columbia University professor from Brooklyn went into hiding Thursday after pal James Comey revealed during his Senate testimony that the man leaked memos detailing the former FBI chief’s conversations with President Trump to the press.
Daniel Richman confirmed by e-mail to several reporters that he was the “good friend” and law-school prof who Comey slipped the documents — then hightailed it out of his tony Brooklyn Heights home and refused to answer any more questions.
As Circa reported on Thursday night, the Justice Department responded to Comey’s testimony in a press release refuting Comey’s claim that he “was ‘not *** aware of’ ‘any kind of memorandum issued from the Attorney General or the Department of Justice to the FBI outlining the parameters of [the Attorney General’s] recusal’” in the investigation of events involving Russia and Trump campaign aides.
Also during Comey’s testimony on Thursday, he was asked whether or not he was obligated to report Trump’s alleged behavior, if Comey believed it to be unethical, to the Justice Department, Comey said, “I think at some point, and I don’t know what Director Mueller is going to do with it, but at some point, I was sure we were going to brief it to the team in charge of the case. But our judgment was in the short term, doesn’t make sense to — no fuzz on the fact I reported to the attorney general. That’s why I stressed he shouldn’t be kicked out of the room. Didn’t make sense to report to him now.”
18 USC §4 states:
Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
Also on Thursday, Comey stated on multiple occasions that Trump has never been under investigation in regard to any potential ties to Russia.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.