Earlier this week White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders strongly implied the Department of Justice should be looking at prosecuting former FBI Director James Comey on a number of fronts.
Q: Would the President encourage DOJ to prosecute Comey?
Sanders: That's not the President's role that's the job of the Department of Justice and something they should certainly look at.
Q: Is that something you would like to see?
Sanders: I'm not sure about that specifically but I think if there's ever a moment that where we feel someone's broken the law, particularly if they're the head of the FBI, I think that's something that certainly should be looked at.
It turns out, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, a Democrat, is backing Sanders' assertions.
In a column for The Hill, Turley argues the press shouldn't be defending Comey or his actions. He focuses on Comey's memos about his meetings with President Trump, which he leaked to the press through a friend for personal benefit rather than to simply help the Special Counsel leading the Russia probe.
Comey disclosed key evidence that undermined, rather than assisted, investigators. The value of these memos to investigators was to have the evidence without the White House knowing about their existence. In later interviews, any conflicting statements could be charged as false statements under 18 U.S.C. 1001, the most successful grounds for prosecutors in past Washington scandals. Moreover, Comey damaged his own value as a witness. Comey was tasked with finding leakers in the administration but then immediately became a leaker himself when it served his purposes.
Comey’s defenders have scoffed that the notion that Comey even acted unprofessionally, let alone illegally.
Comey insisted that he wrote the memos as a type of shield, but he then used them as a sword once he was fired. None of this means that Comey's actions warrant a criminal charge or that those actions exonerate others in the investigation, including President Trump. But at the end of the day, the White House is correct that Comey’s conduct can constitute violations of federal law and regulations.
Pressure on Comey has increased in recent weeks after it was revealed he made the decision to exonerate Hillary Clinton months before FBI agents had interviewed more than a dozen key witness in the case and long before a thorough investigation was complete.
Calls for Comey to testify in front of Congress to clarify previous congressional testimony, which is now highly suspect, are getting louder. Yesterday Republican Lindsey Graham threatened to issue a subpoena for the former FBI director if he chooses not comply with future Senate requests.