There’s something soooo familiar about this. The way we’re going, the Comey saga can only end with soon-to-be new FBI director Christopher Wray calling a press conference to pronounce him “extremely careless” in handling classified information but not quite chargeable under 18 U.S.C. 793.
Nah, who are we kidding? It’d be completely out of character for a cautious character like Comey, who took to covering his bases by memorializing his conversations with the president early and whose most infamous moment as a public official had to do with an investigation into classified info, to rashly put himself in legal jeopardy by mishandling classified material himself. What he did may not be proper but I’d be shocked if there’s grounds to charge him.
Some of the memos that former FBI Director James Comey wrote documenting his private conversations with President Donald Trump have been “retroactively classified,” according to a source with knowledge of the memos.
The source said it was unclear whether that included a memo in which Comey says Trump encouraged him to end the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn…
At least one of Comey’s memos remains unclassified, the source with knowledge told POLITICO…
Comey acknowledged in testimony last month before Congress that some of the memos were about classified conversations, but he said the memo about Flynn was specifically written in a way that would not “trigger a classification.”
Not only was he thinking about his legal exposure when he leaked the memo, he was thinking about it when he wrote the memo. Like I say: Cautious. And a man who knew the rules in this area of law intimately, thanks in part to the gross negligence of the reigning Democratic nominee.
Question: Do we know for a fact that Comey shared his memos with anyone, including the Columbia Law prof who relayed its contents to the Times. Comey testified last month that “I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter.” Note: Not the memo itself, but the content. It’s not clear if the professor himself had a copy of the entire memo or just select unclassified passages that Comey emailed to him. If, hypothetically, Comey transcribed a few key paragraphs from the memo chronicling his Flynn conversation with Trump and gave that to his friend, what is he guilty of — assuming that those paragraphs aren’t themselves classified, which they probably aren’t since they don’t involve any discussion of national security? If he merely transcribed the original memo or parts of it then he also hasn’t removed any government documents from their proper place.
NBC News spoke to Daniel Richman, the Comey pal at Columbia who leaked to the Times. It’s just not true that Comey transmitted classified information, he insists:
Three of the memos were classified from the beginning, and were never shared with Richman, the professor tells NBC News.
Of the remaining four, a small portion — much less than half — has been retroactively deemed classified, said a Congressional source familiar with the matter.
Another Comey pal, Benjamin Wittes, asks a good question. If you believe Trump’s account that he never asked Comey to go easy on Flynn, then how can Comey’s memo be classified? It describes something that supposedly never happened!
Second, if the tweet is false, it is also libelous. He usually stops short of libeling named individuals in his tweets. Not this time. /3/
— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) July 10, 2017
If Comey leaked the entire memo to his friend and the memo contained bona fide classified information in addition to the supposedly fictional conversation between him and Trump about Flynn, then he’d still be guilty of a crime even though his account of what Trump said was bogus. But there’s no evidence of that. And again, how likely is it that Comey would take the enormous legal risk of sharing classified information with his friend gratuitously when the only part of the memo he cared about getting into the newspapers was the details of what Trump asked about Flynn? As I say, it’d be totally out of character.
Here’s Alan Dershowitz, normally a reliable defender of Trump’s legal prerogatives, warning the president not to jump to conclusions about Comey’s supposedly criminal behavior the way people so often do about Trump’s.