Hillary Clinton was put under the microscope of the FBI during the 2016 election. Her email fiasco was in full bloom. She had an unauthorized homebrew server that was unsecured and was infiltrated multiple times while serving as secretary of state. It had classified information on it. A couple of those emails were marked classified at the time they were sent/received. The woman who could’ve been president had reportedly mishandled classified information. It’s a news story. It rehashed the old criticisms of the power couple from the 1990s. It’s not the throwback moment you want—and Comey torched the former first lady and now-two-time presidential loser, describing her actions concerning handling this information, along with her staff, as “grossly negligent.” Clinton got trashed—big league. And rightfully so since she thought the rules didn’t apply to her.
And yet, now we have James Comey also being dragged through the mud because…he thought the rules didn’t apply to him. Talk about Hillary getting revenge, albeit indirectly, and both share that inspector generals have both trashed them and exposed them for the lies that they peddled. At the State Department, the IG report torched the Clinton narrative that her unsecured server was approved and that she had received permission when in fact, Clinton hadn’t done that; she also would have been denied such a system if she had asked.
With Comey, well, the Department of Justice inspector general took him to the woodshed for leaking personal memos for personal and political gain. Katie has more [bold text indicates DOJ IG report]:
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.
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.
Oh, that’s brutal. And, like Clinton, it made the rounds in the press (via WSJ):
Beware the righteous man with power. That’s the great lesson of James Comey, as the 79-page report released Thursday by the Justice Department Inspector General makes clear. The former FBI director willfully violated multiple rules as he sought revenge against Donald Trump while pursuing his own self-interest in the name of higher virtue.
The report focuses on how Mr. Comey handled seven memos he wrote in 2017 about his interactions with Mr. Trump. IG Michael Horowitz finds that in treating his memos as personal documents rather than official FBI records, improperly storing them at home, failing to inform the bureau he had them, or leaking them to the press, Mr. Comey ignored FBI and Justice protocols and broke his employment agreement.
These violations may not be crimes, and the Justice Department declined to prosecute after referral by the IG. But they are unacceptable in someone who had Mr. Comey’s authority and has made his career assailing others for lesser offenses. They show again why Mr. Trump was right to fire him.
This was only the first IG report, and we’ll learn more when he reports soon on Mr. Comey’s role in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants taken out on a former Trump campaign adviser. Even without prosecution, the American public is finally getting an honest account of the real James Comey, an FBI director so in awe of his own righteousness that he believed none of the rules applied to him.
Members of the legal community torched Comey as well, like Jonathan Turley:
The reason Comey violated these rules was as obvious then as it is now. Leaking the memos was designed to improve his stature in the media, and it worked. Comey transformed himself into a badly needed hero to use against the villain Trump. He knew the memos would change the focus of media coverage to his new role as a federal government whistleblower.
Forgotten were prior calls for Comey to be fired by Democrats and Republicans alike for his poor judgment during the investigation of Hillary Clinton and her use of unsecured servers for communications. There was little need to discuss how the review by former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein found “serious mistakes” by Comey. It was no longer breaking news that Rosenstein also cited a long list of former attorneys general, federal judges and leading prosecutors from both parties who believed Comey violated his obligation to “preserve, protect and defend” the traditions of the Justice Department and the FBI.
Rosenstein also noted that Comey “refused to admit his errors,” including his obvious violation of “long standing Justice Department policies and traditions.” That was even before Comey decided to remove FBI material and leak information to the press, yet he is still refusing to admit his errors. Shortly after the inspector general report was released, Comey returned to spinning his conduct as somehow vindicated by the findings. He tweeted, “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 is referring to the Justice Department decision not to charge him with releasing classified information and no finding by the inspector general of an intentional release of classified, as opposed to sensitive, information. However, many of us who have been critics of Comey have long said that his prosecution was unlikely. Comey is relying on the fact that his memos were not found to have contained classified or sensitive information until after he gave the information to The New York Times.
The inspector general report says that, following the publication of the New York Times article, a classification review was conducted. The reason is that Comey never asked for such a review, any more than he asked for permission as a fired FBI employee to remove the material or leak it to the media. According to the report, senior officials stated they were “stunned” and “shocked” by Comey removing and disclosing the information.
Comey knows that, ultimately for him, none of this matters. He has magnanimously accepted the apologies that no one has offered and claimed vindication that appears nowhere in the inspector general report. That is simply the benefit of being the author of your own mythology.
These memos got the special counsel wheels moving and soon Robert Mueller was tapped to lead (for lack of a better term) a two-year witch-hunt that produced zero solid evidence that the Trump team and the Russians colluded during the 2016 elections. And yet, Comey told Fox News’ Bret Baier that he wasn’t a leaker and that he never violated FBI department policy. So, like Clinton, his narrative just got torpedoed. This ironic intersection where Clinton and Comey meet is interesting. You can’t make this up. They both oppose Trump, they both thought the rules didn’t apply, they both got ripped by the media and their respective inspector general’s offices. This town, they say when it comes to D.C. intrigue and hypocrisy. Yes, this town is the undefeated champion in that cesspool contest.