Inspector general finds James Comey did not release classified information to the public

Former FBI Director James Comey (Photo: MGN / ZUMA Press)

(CBS) — An independent watchdog found that former FBI Director James Comey did not release classified information to the public, although he did violate agency policy by taking home unclassified memos and ensuring that they would be leaked to the press.

The Office of the Inspector General for the Justice Department investigated Comey for leaking his own memos describing conversations with President Trump to his friend, Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia University’s law school. Richman then provided the contents of the memo to a reporter at The New York Times who wrote about it.

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The inspector general said in an 83-page report that Comey “violated applicable policies” related to his FBI employment agreement and that the memos were official FBI records. The probe found that the memos Comey leaked contained confidential, but not classified, information.

“We found no evidence that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the Memos to members of the media,” the report said.

However, the report was strongly critical of Comey’s behavior.

“Comey’s retention, handling, and dissemination of certain Memos violated Department and FBI policies, and his FBI Employment Agreement,” the report said.

The former FBI chief said in testimony before Congress that he hoped the leaking of the memo would prompt the selection of a special prosecutor to oversee the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Comey said he had a right to leak the memos because they were his own recollections.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly castigated Comey as a “leaker” and an “untruthful slime ball,” and Republicans have blamed him for instigating the nearly two-year-long special counsel investigation.

Comey responded to the findings of the investigation on Twitter, quipping that he would like those who accused him of leaking classified information to say “sorry we lied about you.”

“DOJ IG ‘found no evidence that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the memos to members of the 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,” Comey tweeted. In a second tweet, he targeted Trump supporters for believing that he would be punished for the leaks.

“And to all those who’ve spent two years talking about me ‘going to jail’ or being a ‘liar and a leaker’—ask yourselves why you still trust people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president,” Comey tweeted.

Comey has remained unfazed throughout the probe. When news of the investigation by the inspector general was released earlier this month, Comey said that he welcomed the investigation, tweeting: “I love transparency.”

“I just wait for facts before I talk about them. I’m confident the results of all IG reports will show honest public servants worked hard to protect this country from a threat this president and his enablers won’t acknowledge. And @ me next time, bruh,” Comey added in a subtle nod to popular Twitter culture.