Weekly Update: Comey’s Illegal Leak?
NOVEMBER 09, 2017
There are too many contradictions and curiosities in the James B. Comey affair for it to stay covered up forever.
This week we announced that the Justice Department is now comparing former FBI Director Comey to WikiLeaks. After Comey was fired by President Trump on May 9, 2017, he gave the New York Times a February 14, 2017, memorandum written about a one-on-one conversation he had with President Trump regarding former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
We are asking a federal court to order the release of all Comey’s unclassified memoranda about his one-on-one conversations with the president.
Comey testified under oath before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that he authored as many as nine such memos about his one-on-one conversations with President Trump. He also admitted, regarding the “Flynn” memo, “I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter [for The New York Times] … I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.” The New York Times published a report about the memo on May 16, 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed the following day.
On June 16, 2017, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the Department of Justice failed to respond to a May 16 FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01189)). Judicial Watch seeks:
FBI Director James Comey’s February 14, 2017 memorandum … memorializing an Oval Office conversation he had with the President on that date regarding former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
In our lawsuit we refute the Justice Department’s claim of exemption for law enforcement purposes:
Ex-Director Comey plainly did not use the February 14 Memo for any recognized or legitimate law enforcement purpose. He used it to settle a score with the President, who had just fired him.
We argue that if disclosure of the “Flynn” memo would harm the Russia investigation, then the Justice Department should have taken steps to “address Ex-Director Comey’s removal of the memo from the FBI, leaking of the memo to the media, and subsequent testimony about the memo, to the extent that testimony was unauthorized and not coordinated with [the Justice Department], the FBI, and/or Special Counsel Mueller. Removal of government records is a federal offense.”
While the Justice Department compares Comey to WikiLeaks, it makes no claim to have addressed Comey’s misconduct. We point out that its “failure to do so further undercuts any claim of harm” to an ongoing law enforcement investigation.
On September 7, 2017, we filed another FOIA lawsuit on behalf of the Daily Caller News Foundation after the Department of Justice failed to respond to a June 9 FOIA request (Daily Caller News Foundation v. U.S. Department Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01830)). The lawsuit seeks:
All unclassified memoranda authored by former FBI Director James Comey that contemporaneously memorialized his discussions with President Donald Trump and his aides [during] the time frame…November 8, 2016 to May 9, 2017.
In the Daily Caller News Foundation suit Judicial Watch argues that neither the FBI nor the Justice Department prevented Comey from testifying, nor do they dispute anything he said. Comey is not under investigation for violating any non-disclosure agreements or removing records from the FBI when he was fired. “Their silence and inaction speak volumes,” Judicial Watch argues.
We further debunk the notion that Comey wrote the memos for law enforcement purposes:
[Director Comey] explained, “I knew that there might come a day when I would need a record of what happened, not just to defend myself, but to defend the FBI and – and our integrity as an institution and the independence of our investigation.” … He authored the records not for law enforcement purposes but for administrative and institutional purposes. His testimony could not be clearer.
We argue in both filings against withholding the memoranda under the guise of a national security exemption: The FBI fails to demonstrate that material contained in the memoranda was classified through proper procedures.
In its court filing opposing the release, the Justice Department also asserts that some of the Comey memos contain classified material. Both cases have been consolidated in (Cable News Network, Inc., v. Federal Bureau of Investigation (No. 1:17-cv-01167)).
“The Freedom of Information Act was designed to give the American people access to the records its government keeps,” said Neil Patel, publisher and CEO of the Daily Caller News Foundation. “This access is fundamental in a democracy like ours. Today, when so many Americans feel detached from a government that they feel often doesn’t serve their interests, this sort of access is more important than ever. When the Daily Caller News Foundation made a reasonable request for access to FBI Director Comey’s memos we were completely stonewalled. Our request is legally sound and completely within the public interest so with the help of our friends at Judicial Watch we are fighting in court to see it through.”
We are happy to help our friends at the Daily Caller News Foundation!
And we now have Justice Department confirmation that Comey was wrong to have leaked records to the media to settle a score with President Trump. How can this Justice Department defend its position that memos written for the pernicious purpose of targeting a sitting president with a criminal investigation should remain secret? Mr. Mueller may have an interest in protecting Comey, but the public’s interest demands transparency about Comey’s vendetta against President Trump.
What did James Comey know, what were his intentions, and with whom did he discuss them, before his controversial testimony to the Senate?
This week, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice for all records of communications relating to former FBI Director Comey’s testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-02316)).
We sued after the Justice Department failed follow federal law and respond to an August 14, 2017, FOIA request seeking:
All records of communications between the Department of Justice and former FBI Director James Comey prior to and regarding Comey’s testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on June 8, 2017.
Fox News reported: “A source close to James Comey tells Fox News the former FBI director’s Senate testimony has been ‘closely coordinated’ with Robert Mueller, whom the Justice Department appointed as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation.”
As discussed above, Comey gave testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, in which he admitted he leaked one of the memos in order to get a special counsel appointed to target President Trump.
In his testimony Comey detailed multiple conversations with President Trump. Comey confirmed he told President Trump three times that he was not a target of investigation and testified about President Trump’s firing of him.
Indeed, on May 16, 2017, The New York Times reported that it received a leaked memorandum from former Director Comey detailing a conversation between President Trump and Comey regarding the FBI’s investigation of potential Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election.
Mr. Comey may have violated the law in leaking these memos to the media. It would be a scandal if Comey coordinated his Senate testimony with Mr. Mueller’s special counsel office. That we have had to sue in federal court speaks volumes.
We also sent Acting FBI Director Andrew G. McCabe a warning letter concerning the FBI’s legal responsibility under the Federal Records Act (FRA) to recover records, including memos Comey subsequently leaked to the media, unlawfully removed from the Bureau by former Director James Comey.
We will keep pushing for the truth about what looks to be the scandal of the century.
Judicial Watch’s anti-corruption work is the least we can do for our country compared to the risks and sacrifices taken by those who protected our Republic in military service. We all should pray for peace – but Judicial Watch will, in the meantime, fight for the truth. As President Reagan said in his 1985 Veterans Day remarks:
We endanger the peace and confuse all issues when we obscure the truth; when we refuse to name an act for what it is; when we refuse to see the obvious and seek safety in Almighty. Peace is only maintained and won by those who have clear eyes and brave minds.
Judicial Watch benefits from the unique experience of the veterans on our staff. And we are proud that countless veterans who, with “clear eyes and brave minds,” generously support Judicial Watch’s work. Thank you all for your service and have a wonderful Veterans Day.
Until next week …