The Inspector General of the Justice Department has determined that it is misconduct for a law enforcement officer to publicly disclose an effort to shut down his investigation.
Michael Horowitz would probably not describe his findings that way. But that seems to me the inescapable message of the inspector general’s report, released today, on former Director James Comey’s handling of his memos on his interactions with President Trump…
The foundation of much of his distress is that the inspector general disagrees with Comey about whether these documents were personal notes or agency records. He thinks they are FBI documents, not Comey’s personal memory aids. Fair enough. He may well even be right about that. The rules here are pretty sweeping. The government claims very broad rights over everything employees write, think, or produce in the remotest connection to government service. These were, after all, memos about information to which Comey had access only because he was FBI director. And they do involve sensitive government information.
But as Comey would say, lordy! Keeping or retaining personal copies of unclassified government records is hardly a big deal. An enormous number of government officials make notes to themselves and retain them. Officials routinely leave office and write books about their government service. Writing a few notes to one’s own files pales in comparison. So sure, if Horowitz wants to consider this a big deal, he’s entitled to say whatever he likes. But that aspect seems kind of foolish as the basis for the kind of hand-waving that Horowitz engages in.