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DOJ declines to prosecute James Comey on inspector general referral for leaking classified info

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 8/1/2019 Daniel Chaitin
James Comey wearing a suit and tie © Provided by MediaDC: Washington Newspaper Publishing Company, Inc.

The Justice Department declined to prosecute former FBI Director James Comey following a criminal referral from the agency's independent watchdog, which concluded that Comey had leaked classified information and showed a lack of candor with investigators.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz reached out to prosecutors about one of the memos Comey leaked to a friend, which detailed a conversation he had with President Trump, after he was fired by President Trump in May 2017.

Although prosecutors found the watchdog's findings compelling, they decided against prosecution under classified information protection laws because of there being too much uncertainty surrounding Comey's intent, according to the Hill. A month after he was fired, Comey testified to Congress he had leaked his notes to a friend to give to the media, hoping that it would spark a special counsel investigation.

Then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel the day after the New York Times first reported on details from one of Comey's leaked memos, which claimed Trump pressed his FBI director to drop an investigation into his national security adviser Michael Flynn. That memo was classified as "confidential" — the lowest classification level — after Comey sent the information.

With other investigations focused on the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation underway, one source said the DOJ did not want to “make its first case against the Russia investigators with such thin margins and look petty and vindictive."

Comey's lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spokespeople for the DOJ and its inspector general also did not immediately respond to the Washington Examiner's request for comment.

The news comes hours after conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch announced it had obtained an FBI log about special agents arriving at Comey's home in June 2017 to retrieve his memos. The notes show Comey handed over four of them to the FBI agents, and he said to the best of his recollection two might be missing.

Although the DOJ declined to prosecute in this case, Comey, who has become a vocal critic of the president since his ouster, is not yet in the clear.

Comey is also a possible target of Horowitz's separate investigation into alleged Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuse. He signed three of the four FISA applications targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page before being fired by Trump. Horowitz's report is expected to be released after Labor Day.

It is also likely that Comey's actions as FBI director will be scrutinized during the "investigation of the investigators," a review of the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, being led by Attorney General William Barr and the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, John Durham.


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