Comey violated FBI policies in handling of Trump memo: Watchdog

DOJ inspector general says ex-FBI Director Comey violated FBI policies when sharing a memo with unclassified information

    A combination of file photos show US President Donald Trump in the White House and former FBI Director James Comey on Capitol Hill [Files: Carlos Barria/Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
    A combination of file photos show US President Donald Trump in the White House and former FBI Director James Comey on Capitol Hill [Files: Carlos Barria/Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

    The United States Justice Department's inspector general said on Thursday that former FBI Director James Comey violated FBI policies in his handling of memos documenting private conversations with President Donald Trump.

    The watchdog office said Comey broke FBI rules by giving a memo containing unclassified information to a friend with instructions to share the contents with a reporter.

    The report said Comey set "a dangerous example" for officials within the department. 

    The office also said Comey failed to notify the FBI after he was fired that he had retained some of the memos in a safe at home.

    Comey wrote a series of memos about conversations with Trump he said unnerved him. He said he wanted to make a record of the interactions because he was concerned Trump might later lie about them.

    "Comey violated FBI policy and the requirements of his FBI employment agreement when he chose this path," the report said.

    The Justice Department has already decided that it will not prosecute Comey over the matter.

    Lawyers for Comey did not immediately return messages seeking comment. But Comey himself noted on Twitter that the inspector general found no evidence that Comey or his lawyers had ever shared any classified information with the news media.

    "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," he wrote.

    He also added: "And to all those who've spent two years talking about me 'going to jail' or being a 'liar and a leaker' ask yourselves why you still trust people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president." 

    Trump and his supporters will likely use the report to continue their attacks against Comey, who was fired in May 2017. Comey had opened an FBI investigation into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election and whether Russian officials colluded with the members of Trump's team. 

    The memo described in the inspector general's report included a private conversation in which Trump allegedly asked Comey to drop the FBI's investigation into his then-national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Flynn has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian officials. Comey decided to share the contents of his memo after he was fired. 

    After Comey's dismissal, Trump faced accusations of obstruction of justice, which loudened after he fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe the following year.

    McCabe said he believed Comey was fired because he refused to give in to Trump's requests to kill the probe.

    Comey has since condemned Trump as "morally unfit" to hold the office of president, and said there was "certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice".

    The investigation into alleged Russian meddling was taken over by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, himself a former director of the FBI, after Comey's firing.

    Mueller, who finished his investigation earlier this year, concluded that there was no evidence of a criminal conspiracy between Trump's campaign and Russia. But he also said he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice. 

    Trump has repeatedly described the Mueller investigation as a "witch-hunt". 

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    SOURCE: News agencies