The Justice Department declined prosecution of James Comey after the agency’s internal watchdog found that the former FBI director gave memos containing classified information to a friend, according to news reports.
Comey wrote at least nine memos following conversations he had with President Donald Trump. Shortly after Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017, he provided some of his memos to Daniel Richman, a Columbia law professor, with instructions to share some of the information with The New York Times.
The FBI determined two memos that Comey gave Richman contained information classified at the “confidential” level, according to Fox News. Richman previously told Fox News he received four memos from Comey. The classification determination was made retroactively, a designation that likely helped Comey in the investigation.
The Hill, citing multiple sources, was the first to report that the Justice Department had declined prosecution of Comey.
One government official told Fox News that the decision “wasn’t a close call.”
“Everyone at the DOJ involved in the decision said it wasn’t a close call,” a Justice Department official told Fox News. “They all thought this could not be prosecuted.”
Comey testified on June 7, 2017 that his goal in giving documents to Richman was to prompt the appointment of a special counsel to take over the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. The maneuver worked, as Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel on May 17, 2017.
The Times published a story on May 16, 2017, alleging that Trump asked Comey during a Feb. 14, 2017 meeting in the Oval Office to go easy on Michael Flynn, who had been fired as national security adviser a day earlier for lying about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, confirmed during a June 18, 2018 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that Comey was under investigation for mishandling classified information.
Comey has disputed the characterization that he was a “leaker.” He has also denied giving classified documents to Richman, who is now a member of Comey’s legal team.
The FBI has released some of Comey’s memos in response to public records lawsuits. The documents show that parts of at least three memos and one email that Comey sent within the FBI contained classified information. An email that Comey sent to other FBI officials on Jan. 7, 2017 recounting a now-infamous briefing he gave Trump at Trump Tower contained information that is now considered classified.
One redaction of classified information appears to be a reference to Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the anti-Trump dossier. Comey briefed Trump on some of Steele’s dossier allegations.
Comey’s memo following his meeting with Trump discussing Flynn does not have classified information.