The results of an investigation by the Department Of Justice’s Inspector General focused on the actions of former FBI Director, James B. Comey, fired by Donald Trump, has been released.
Despite the expected hyperventilating from Trump and his congressional and media surrogates while the investigation was underway and now that it is complete, the conclusions of the report add up to a nothingburger for them. Most of the investigation concerned Comey’s having passed on some internal memos he authored, through a friend, Daniel Richman, to New York Times journalist, Michael Schmidt.
While Inspector General Michael Horowitz did report that Comey acted, in his view, improperly in disclosing one of his memos containing his recollections of a meeting with Donald Trump, the I.G. did not find any grounds under which Comey could be formally charged with wrongdoing.
And underlining that, prior to releasing the report, Horowitz passed it on to DOJ attorneys to review and decide if they saw anything in it that he didn’t.
They saw nothing that rose to level justifying the filing of charges.
Despite that, Comey didn’t come out completely unscathed – or more aptly, unscolded.
Horowitz said regarding Comey’s objective to spur the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate Trump and his perceived attempts at obstruction of justice:
“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. What was not permitted was the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive investigative information, obtained during the course of FBI employment, in order to achieve a personally desired outcome.”
The I.G. further stated that, “Leaking sensitive information to the press set a dangerous example. It is of utmost importance that all FBI employees adhere to Department and FBI policies, particularly when confronted by what appear to be extraordinary circumstances or compelling personal convictions.”
In essence then, Comey, according to the conclusions in the report of the investigation, exercised poor judgment and breached agency policy in causing the material to be leaked to the press.
What Trump and his political mafia were looking to get from the findings of the I.G., was a charge of illegally releasing classified information. They didn’t get it. The IG found no such evidence “that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the memos to members of the media.”
“The IG has basically faulted Comey for speeding on his way to tell the village that a fire was coming,” says Matt Miller, former Justice Department spokesperson in the Obama administration.
A couple of other things to look at here. One is that, these memos were not classified at the time they were released in the media, but that they were classified after the fact. This prompted Trump to falsely claim that, “Comey gave his memo to a friend to leak classified information to the media and leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted.”
Another is that prior to Comey’s testimony, the I.G. report reveals, bureau officials handed Comey copies of the seven actual memos, “for him to review at home in preparation for the hearing”.
Here is a screenshot of the FBI memo from June 16, 2017.
This begs the question – how sensitive could these memos that Comey was chewed out for releasing, possibly be, if they were cleared for discussion in a public congressional hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee?
Benjamin Wittes writing in Lawfare, in his detailed examination of the I.G. report, points out that Horowitz’ claim that Comey committed “unauthorized disclosure of sensitive investigative information” is largely contradicted by the fact that most of the facts about Michael Flynn were already in the public domain before Comey’s release of the memos – particularly from outgoing acting Attorney General, Sally Yates.
The memos the investigations were concerned with, documented discussions between Director Comey and Donald Trump that Comey found highly concerning, including Trump’s request for “loyalty” at a private dinner and Trump’s request that Comey drop an investigation into then National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn.
If you’re going to have a gunfight with Trump, the main street you step out on to shoot it out, is Twitter, and Comey did.
Right wing media had been touting that the I.G. report would amount to a broad indictment of Comey and by extension, the entire FBI investigation and that of the Special Counsel.
Typical of them, are John Solomon’s unhinged and speculative articles at The Hill, one of which saw him predicting that, “The Justice Department’s chief watchdog is preparing a damning report on James Comey’s conduct in his final days as FBI director that likely will conclude he leaked classified information and showed a lack of candor after his own agency began looking into his feud with President Trump over the Russia probe.”
Of course, I.G. Horowitz’ findings of fact, though a huge disappointment to Comey’s critics, will not put the brakes on their conspiracy theories about Trump’s “deep state” opponents – and they won’t impede Trump’s own constant barrage of misdirection. Ironically, considering the fact that her boss has now been found to have lied and misled the public over 12,000 times since entering office, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement calling Comey “a proven liar and leaker.”
But Trump himself trumped Ms. Grisham in the absurdity department, Tweeting regarding Comey, that, “Perhaps never in the history of our Country has someone been more thoroughly disgraced and excoriated than James Comey in the just released Inspector General’s Report. He should be ashamed of himself!”
Remove the name, ‘James Comey’ and the phrase, “in the just released Inspector General’s Report”, and you have Trump presenting a completely accurate assessment of himself.