Comey violated FBI policy over Trump talks memos, watchdog finds

Comey set ‘dangerous example’ by not safeguarding sensitive memos, inspector finds

Former FBI director James Comey Comey failed to notify the bureau that he had retained sensitive memos, the US justice department’s inspector general said. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Former FBI director James Comey Comey failed to notify the bureau that he had retained sensitive memos, the US justice department’s inspector general said. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

 

Former FBI director James Comey violated FBI policies in his handling of memos documenting private conversations with US president Donald Trump, the US justice department’s inspector general has said.

The watchdog office said Mr Comey broke FBI rules by giving a memo containing unclassified information to a friend with instructions to share the contents with a reporter.

The office also said Mr Comey failed to notify the FBI after he was dismissed in May 2017 that he had retained some of the memos in a safe at home.

“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,” the report says.

But the inspector general also concluded that none of the information shared with the reporter was classified.

At issue are seven memos Mr Comey wrote between January 2017 and April 2017 about conversations with Mr Trump that Mr Comey found unnerving or unusual.

These include a dinner at which Mr Comey says Mr Trump asked him to pledge his loyalty to him and a private Oval Office meeting weeks later at which Mr Comey says the president asked him to drop an FBI investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

One week after he was fired, Mr Comey provided a copy of the memo about Mr Flynn to Dan Richman, his personal lawyer and a friend, and instructed him to share the contents of it with a specific reporter from the New York Times.

Mr Comey has said he wanted to make details of the conversation public in hopes of triggering the appointment of a special counsel to lead the FBI’s investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel one day after the story broke.

Rationale

The inspector general’s office found Mr Comey’s rationale lacking.

“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,” the report says.

“What was not permitted was the unauthorised disclosure of sensitive investigative information, obtained during the course of FBI employment, in order to achieve a personally desired outcome.”

The US justice department has already decided that it will not prosecute Mr Comey over the matter.

Mr Richman declined to comment on Thursday. But Mr Comey noted on Twitter that the inspector general found no evidence that he or his lawyers had ever shared any classified information with the news 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,” he wrote. – AP