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Tipsheet

Why Didn't Comey Ask For Permission Before Leaking Memos?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

As we've been covering since the news broke, the Department of Justice Inspector General released a blistering report Thursday regarding former FBI director's actions while serving the American people during the Trump administration. 

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As Katie said, in short the IG lambasted Comey for for leaking memos for personal and political gain:

[The IG Report] 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.

The report also found that Comey "set a dangerous example" for the FBI because of his leaked conversations with President Trump. 

"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.emphasis added

So the question is, why did Comey, an educated man who had served in the FBI for a number of years, think it was okay that he more or less steal these memos and subsequently leak the substance of them? 

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Well, based on the IG report it sounds like he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he thought it would be better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. He said he simply loved his country too much to bother asking for approval: 

"When asked whether he considered that his disclosure of this information would significantly affect FBI equities, he told the OIG that he would “frame it differently” as an issue of “incredible importance to the Nation, as a whole.” Comey said he took the actions he took because he “was doing…something I [had] to do if I love this country…and I love the Department of Justice, and I love the FBI.” Comey told the OIG that notifying the FBI and Department of Justice about his plans before disclosing the contents of Memo 4 was not something he could do “if I care about the Country.” Comey said that he did not want to put the leadership of the FBI “in an impossible position” by notifying them ahead of time because if he asked them to approve what he was planning to do, “they'd have to tell the leadership of the Department of Justice that the…former Director is contemplating doing this” and Comey believed it was “better that [he] not engage them.”76 Accordingly, Comey stated that he did not notify anyone at the FBI that he was going to share the contents of the Memo 4 with Richman or the media, and that he did not seek authorization from FBI to provide Memo 4 to Richman." emphasis added

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Comey took unprecedented actions, knew what he was doing would not be approved, yet continued to do so anyways. He thinks himself a hero, but as the DOJ said, he "failed" to live up to the "responsibility to protect sensitive law enforcement information" that all FBI employees must honor even when they "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." What a hack.

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