Ex-FBI Director Comey Violated Policies by Sharing Memos, Watchdog Says

WASHINGTON—The Justice Department’s inspector general found that former FBI Director

James Comey

violated the agency’s policies when he provided memos about his interactions with President Trump in 2017 to others, adding to criticism of Mr. Comey’s controversial tenure in the post.

Mr. Comey failed to follow Federal Bureau of Investigation policies that address the handling of FBI records when he provided one memo toa friend to share with a reporterand provided four memos he kept in a personal safe at his home to his lawyers, the inspector general’sreport said.

The memos—the contents of which became public soon afterMr. Trump fired Mr. Comeyin May 2017—provided detailed descriptions of what Mr. Comey viewed asthe president’s early effortsto shut downthe FBI investigationinto Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The memos’ contents helped lead to the appointment of special counsel

Robert Mueller

to take over the investigation.

Those memos were official FBI records and not personal documents, as Mr. Comey had argued, the watchdog said.

The report came weeks after the Justice Department determined itwouldn’t prosecuteMr. Comey over his dissemination of the memos, including one that contained some classified information.

That classified information consisted of six words, four of which were the names of foreign countries discussed by Mr. Trump, including the president’s views on which leaders to promptly return calls from, according to the report. Mr. Comey shared another memo with his attorneys that included some classified information, but redacted the relevant paragraph, according to the report. That information included an assessment of an unnamed foreign leader by Mr. Trump, the report said.

The report said that it found no evidence that Mr. Comey or his attorneys had released any classified information to the media.

Mr. Comey said Thursday morning that the report and the Justice Department’s decision not to prosecute him served as vindication against those who had called him a “liar and a leaker.”

“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,” Mr. Comeywrote on Twitter.

The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, also criticized Mr. Comey ina lengthy reportissued last year that rebuked Mr. Comey’s public statements in the politically charged investigation into former Secretary of State

Hillary Clinton

’s use of a private email server.

In that report, Mr. Horowitz determined that Mr. Comey was “extraordinary and insubordinate” by deviating from long-established policies in speaking publicly about the investigation at a news conference in July 2016 andin sending a letter to Congress—in the days before the 2016 presidential election—that disclosed the bureau had reopened the probe.

The new 61-page report describes how Mr. Comey wrote seven memos about his interactions with Mr. Trump between January and April of 2017 and didn’t share three of them, including two with classified information, with anyone outside the FBI.

But the report faults Mr. Comey for providing copies of one memo to a friend, Columbia Law School professor Daniel Richman, with instructions to share the contents of it with a reporter for the New York Times.

Mr. Comey has said he considered the memos personal documents, rather than FBI records, and felt he was free to share them outside the government.

Mr. Comey has also said he gave them to Mr. Richman in the hope that the information they contained would become public and prompt the appointment of a special counsel to conduct the Russia investigation.

Write toAruna Viswanatha at[email protected]

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