Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz released an 83-page long report Thursday morning about misconduct by fired FBI Director James Comey. It thoroughly berates Comey for leaking memos about conversations with President Trump for personal and political gain. Most importantly, the report concludes Comey improperly released FBI material in order to launch the Special Counsel investigation into the 2016 presidential election. This report is separate from the highly anticipated IG report about the origins of the Russia investigation and FISA abuse.
Comey admitted during sworn congressional testimony in 2017 that he purposely leaked the confidential memos to a friend, who then gave them to the New York Times.
Here is the IG conclusion and details about his leaking. It holds Comey accountable for setting a "dangerous precedent" by providing confidential FBI material to the media for personal and political gain:
However, after his removal as FBI Director two months later, Comey provided a copy of Memo 4, which Comey had kept without authorization, to Richman with instructions to share the contents with a reporter for The New York Times. Memo 4 included information that was related to both the FBI's ongoing investigation of Flynn and, by Comey’s own account, information that he believed and alleged constituted evidence of an attempt to obstruct the ongoing Flynn investigation; later that same day, The New York Times published an article about Memo 4 entitled, “Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation.”
The responsibility to protect sensitive law enforcement information falls in large part to the employees of the FBI who have access to it through their daily duties. On occasion, some of these employees may disagree with decisions by prosecutors, judges, or higher ranking FBI and Department officials about the actions to take or not take in criminal and counterintelligence matters. They may even, in some situations, distrust the legitimacy of those supervisory, prosecutorial, or judicial decisions. But even when these employees believe that their most strongly-held personal convictions might be served by an unauthorized disclosure, the FBI depends on them not to disclose sensitive information.
Former Director Comey failed to live up to this responsibility. 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. Comey said he was compelled to take these actions “if I love this country…and I love the Department of Justice, and I love the FBI.” However, were current or former FBI employees to follow the former Director's example and disclose sensitive information in service of their own strongly held personal convictions, the FBI would be unable to dispatch its law enforcement duties properly, as Comey himself noted in his March 20, 2017 congressional testimony. Comey expressed a similar concern to President Trump, according to Memo 4, in discussing leaks of FBI information, telling Trump that the FBI's ability to conduct its work is compromised “if people run around telling the press what we do.” This is no doubt part of the reason why Comey’s closest advisors used the words “surprised,” “stunned,” “shocked,” and “disappointment” to describe their reactions to learning what Comey had done.
In a country built on the rule of law, 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. 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 report specifically addresses a number of claims made by Comey that the memos he leaked were "personal documents." The IG concluded the memos, which were written on an official FBI computer while Comey was working in his official capacity as FBI director, belong to the FBI. Further, after Comey was fired he held onto the memos, which was against FBI protocol.
We conclude that the Memos were official FBI records, rather than Comey's personal documents. Accordingly, after his removal as FBI Director, Comey violated applicable policies and his Employment Agreement by failing to either surrender his copies of Memos 2, 4, 6, and 7 to the FBI or seek authorization to retain them; by releasing official FBI information and records to third parties without authorization; and by failing to immediately alert the FBI about his disclosures to his personal attorneys once he became aware in June 2017 that Memo 2 contained six words (four of which were names of foreign countries mentioned by the President) that the FBI had determined were classified at the “CONFIDENTIAL” level.
Comey told the OIG that he considered Memos 2 through 7 to be his personal documents, rather than official FBI records. He said he viewed these Memos as “a personal aide-mémoire,” “ like [his] diary” or “like [his] notes,” which contained his “recollection[s]” of his conversations with President Trump. Comey further stated that he kept Memos 2, 4, 6, and 7 in a personal safe at home because he believed the documents were personal records rather than FBI records. Comey's characterization of the Memos as personal records finds no support in the law and is wholly incompatible with the plain language of the statutes, regulations, and policies defining Federal records, and the terms of Comey's FBI Employment Agreement.
We conclude that the Memos are official FBI records as defined by statute, regulations, Department and FBI policies, and Comey's FBI Employment Agreement. Because they are official FBI records, Comey was required to handle the Memos in compliance with all applicable Department and FBI policies and the terms of his Employment Agreement. Comey Violated Department and FBI Policies Pertaining to the Retention, Handling, and Dissemination of FBI Records and Information Comey's actions with respect to the Memos violated Department and FBI policies concerning the retention, handling, and dissemination of FBI records and information, and violated the requirements of Comey’s FBI Employment Agreement.
Despite the findings, Comey will not be prosecuted. He has responded to the report with a false narrative about its findings:
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.— James Comey (@Comey) August 29, 2019
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.— James Comey (@Comey) August 29, 2019
This post has been updated with additional information.