Report: 'More than half' of James Comey's infamous 'personal memos' contained classified material

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Published by: Robert Laurie on Monday July 10th, 2017

ALL are government documents

As you'll no doubt recall, during former FBI Director James Comey's congressional testimony he claimed that he “understood" his memos to be nothing more than his "recollection recorded of my conversation with the president."  Comey said that, "As a private citizen," he thought it was "important to get it out.” So, he decided to leak at least one of his memos to the press.

Unfortunately for Comey, a new report at The Hill indicates that there were seven of these "personal memos." Of them, four contained classified material, and ALL of them were "government documents." As such, their removal is a direct violation of  18 USC 1924, which forbids the "Unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material."

More than half of the memos former FBI chief James Comey wrote as personal recollections of his conversations with President Trump about the Russia investigation have been determined to contain classified information, according to interviews with officials familiar with the documents.

This revelation raises the possibility that Comey broke his own agency’s rules and ignored the same security protocol that he publicly criticized Hillary Clinton for in the waning days of the 2016 presidential election.

Comey testified last month he considered the memos to be personal documents and that he shared at least one of them with a Columbia University lawyer friend. He asked that lawyer to leak information from one memo to the news media in hopes of increasing pressure to get a special prosecutor named in the Russia case after Comey was fired as FBI director. 

Which memos were leaked will be key.  So far no one knows if the memo he gave to his friend bore classification markings.  If it did, his admittedly intentional leak may actually have violated more than one Espionage Act statute.

When the seven memos Comey wrote regarding his nine conversations with Trump about Russia earlier this year were shown to Congress in recent days, the FBI claimed all were, in fact, deemed to be government documents.

While the Comey memos have been previously reported, this is the first time there has been a number connected to the amount of the memos the ex-FBI chief wrote.

Four of the memos had markings making clear they contained information classified at the “secret” or “confidential” level, according to officials directly familiar with the matter.

In short, Comey has some 'splaning to do.

Not only did he cross the line in the "removal and retention" area, he may also have violated  18 USC 793. That statute governs the "Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information."  Basically, if there was any classified info in the material he gave to the press, he would probably be in violation of the exact legal standard that he decided not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for violating.

So far, the claim has not been made (at least not explicitly) that the material Comey gave to the press was classified. There are also questions about when the material was marked classified.  It may have happened after Comey leaked it, meaning 18 USC 793 wouldn't apply, though 18 USC 1924 probably still would.

Comey indicated in his testimony the memos were in his possession when he left the bureau, leaving him in a position to leak one of them through his lawyer friend to the media. But he testified that he has since turned them over to Robert Mueller, a former FBI chief and now spearheading the investigation about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. 

It is not clear whether Comey as director signed the same agreement as his agents, but the contract is considered the official policy of the bureau. It was also unclear when the documents were shown to Congress whether the information deemed "secret" or "confidential" was classified at the time Comey wrote the memos or determined so afterwards, the sources said.

Comey let Hillary slide because he believed she didn't "intend" to do what she did, and therefore no one would prosecute the case. It was a ridiculous, and easily disproven, claim but it was ultimately the final decision.  It probably doesn't apply here, since Comey himself testified he personally wrote the memos, kept them, and purposely leaked at least one of them. 

The "I didn't mean to" defense is going to have a tough time standing up to Comey's own previous statements.

Still... The FBI has yet to comment and, as is becoming frustratingly common, the sources aren't going on the record.  We'll keep an eye on this story, but take the Hill's report with a grain of salt for now. It's entirely possible that their sources have it wrong, or that the entire matter will get buried in the usual, infuriating, Washington back-scratching.

Comey may have crossed the line, but you need to prove it and prosecute it or it doesn't really matter.  Even if he's guilty as sin, we're a long way from any actual legal action.

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