Former FBI Director James Comey came to the Senate intelligence committee ready to unload, one month after President Donald Trump fired him. Comey talked for close to three hours, answering a range of questions about the FBI’s Russia investigation, and his private interactions with Trump and his thinking about how he handled the Hillary Clinton email probe.
In personally directing the leak of a memo he kept outlining his conversations with President Trump, James Comey likely committed a felony, punishable by law for up to 10 years in a federal facility.
Comey confessed that he allowed a reporter to get hold of the memo to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. She asked whether he ever enabled the memo to be shared outside the Department of Justice.
Comey said that once Trump tweeted that he may have tapes of their private conversations, he believed it made sense to uncover the memo, hoping it would create the need for a special counsel.
“My judgment was, I needed to get that out into the public square, and so I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter,” Comey said. “Didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons, but I asked him to, because I thought, that might prompt the appointment of the special counsel.”
The story ended up in the hands of the New York Times, who wrote a story concerning the memo, claiming Trump coerced him into dropping the investigation into Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor.
Whether the memos were confidential or not – and in earlier testimony, Comey said he wrote them in a certain way not to contain confidential information – Comey is almost certainly guilty of violating 18 US Code, Section 641, which makes it a felony to steal, sell or convey “any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof.”
Violations of this law: “Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”
As Jonathan Turley, a leading constitutional law expert, writes, it seems unusual that a memo written by the FBI director would not consist of anything classified or confidential at all. The mere fact that someone is speaking to the President of the United States behind closed doors would indicate that there was at least something secret or classified being talked about.
Comey admitted this and outside the chambers throughout a break, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio expressed surprised at Comey’s honesty.