There are spin masters in politics, and then there are whirling dervishes. James Comey qualifies as the latter with his response to Inspector General Michael Horowitz’ report on his conduct regarding the leak of memos containing classified information. Horowitz concluded that Comey “set a dangerous example,” knew full well that his memos were work product rather than personal material, and knowingly violated FBI and Department of Justice policies.
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
Ahem. The report does say that Comey didn’t leak his memos directly to the media. However, Horowitz describes how Comey used a cutout to achieve the same thing, a point which Comey had already admitted in public testimony:
At the time, the OIG also was aware of Comey’s June 8, 2017 congressional testimony that he had authorized a friend (who was also one of his personal attorneys) to provide the contents of Memo 4 — which did not contain any classified information — to a reporter for The New York Times. The focus of the OIG’s investigation was to determine whether Comey violated Department or FBI policies, or the terms of his FBI Employment Agreement, in his handling of the Memos during and after his tenure as FBI Director. The OIG’s investigation included review of the Memos as well as numerous additional documents, emails, and news articles; and forensic analysis of certain computer systems. As part of this investigation, the OIG also interviewed 17 witnesses, including former Director Comey and Daniel Richman, the individual who, at Comey’s request, shared the contents of one of the Memos with a reporter for The New York Times.
Emphasis mine. This can literally be found on Page 1 of the report. Comey is parsing out his vindication on the thin edge that the memo he directed Richman to leak to the Times didn’t have classified material in it, but as Horowitz points out, Memo 4 was designated “For Official Use Only.” This is what Comey’s claiming as vindication:
Comey instructed Richman to share the contents of Memo 4, but not the Memo itself, with a specific reporter for The New York Times. Comey did not seek FBI authorization before providing the contents of Memo 4, through Richman, to a reporter. As noted above, the FBI later marked Memo 4 “For Official Use Only” and determined that it did not contain classified information. We 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.
Why did Comey direct Richman to leak Memo 4? Politics:
Comey sends a digital photograph of Memo 4 (describing the meeting in which Comey wrote that President Trump made the statement about “letting Flynn go”) to Richman via text message from Comey’s personal phone. Comey asks Richman to share the contents, but not the Memo itself, with a specific reporter for The New York Times. Comey’s stated purpose is to cause the appointment of a Special Counsel to ensure that any tape recordings that may exist of his conversations with President Trump are not destroyed. Richman conveys the substance of Memo 4 to the reporter.
Horowitz makes specific mention of Comey, Richman, and Memo 4 in his conclusion. It’s clear that Horowitz doesn’t see the lack of classification as any sort of vindication for Comey:
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.
You’d better believe an apology is owed, but it’s not owed to Comey. It’s owed from Comey. Clearly, we will wait a very long time to hear it.
Update: Maybe Comey should check in with his town hall partners at CNN before demanding apologies. They read the report and don’t seem to think it’s very vindicate-y:
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) August 29, 2019
“It says that Comey set a “dangerous example” for other members of the FBI, and it points out that he even had these conversations with President Trump about how important it is to keep investigatory details secret, and to not share information with the press and then essentially says he was a hypocrite for turning around and doing the same thing himself. It also includes a couple of select quotes from interviews they did with Comey’s advisers where Comey’s advisers are telling the IG they were stunned, they were shocked, it was disappointment to see that this is how Comey had acted.”