- The Department of Justice’s inspector general is reportedly investigating “classification matters” related to former FBI Director James Comey’s memos.
- Comey kept seven memos of his conversations with President Donald Trump leading up to his firing last year.
- After he was fired, Comey gave four of the memos to his friend, Columbia University law professor Daniel Richman, to leak to the press last year.
- At least two of the memos Comey gave to Richman contain information officials now consider to be classified, according to The Wall Street Journal.
- The DOJ took the extraordinary step of turning Comey’s memos over to Congress on Thursday.
The Justice Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into “classification matters” related to former FBI Director James Comey’s memos, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
Comey was fired by President Donald Trump last May, and shortly after, he gave four memos about his conversations with Trump to his friend, Columbia University law professor Daniel Richman. The memos and Comey’s firing are central to the obstruction-of-justice case special counsel Robert Mueller has been building against Trump since last year.
According to The Journal, at least two of the memos Comey gave to Richman contain information officials now consider to be classified. The former FBI director redacted elements of one of the memos that he knew were classified before giving it to Richman, and he determined at the time that another memo did not contain classified information. However, The Journal reported, after Comey left the bureau, officials upgraded the classification level on the latter to “confidential.”
Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee last year that he directed Richman to share his memos with the media because he needed “to get that out into the public square.”
The White House initially said Comey was fired because of the way he handled the FBI’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct government business. However, Trump later told NBC’s Lester Holt that “this Russia thing” – referring to Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and the Trump campaign’s possible involvement – was a factor in his decision. The president also reportedly told two top Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting that Comey’s ouster had taken “great pressure” off of him.
Comey’s memos revealed that Trump told him, one day after the firing of national security adviser Michael Flynn, that he hoped the FBI could let go of its investigation into Flynn. Comey said he took the statement as a request for leniency toward Flynn, and the former FBI director said he did not give any indication that he would heed it.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December to one count of making false statements to investigators about his contacts with Russian officials during the transition period. One day after Flynn’s guilty plea was announced, Trump said that he had to fire Flynn because he misled Vice President Mike Pence and he “lied to the FBI.”
Legal experts said at the time that if Trump knew Flynn had misled investigators when he asked Comey to let go of the FBI’s probe, it would significantly bolster the obstruction case against him.
Comey’s memos were turned over to Congress on Thursday.
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