The Slatest

Trump and Fox News Think Comey Leaked Classified Information. Did He?

Ousted FBI Director James Comey.

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On Monday, President Trump accused fired FBI Director James Comey of leaking classified information.

Trump is referring to the memos Comey wrote to document his conversations with Trump, parts of which he eventually asked a friend to share with the media. Trump’s tweet followed the airing of a Fox & Friends segment on a report from the Hill alleging that the majority of the memos written by Comey contained classified information, the disclosure of which, the segment claims, puts “our national security at risk:”

From the Hill:

Comey testified last month he considered the memos to be personal documents and that he shared at least one of them with a friend. He asked that friend, a lawyer at Columbia University, 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.

Comey insisted in his testimony he believed his personal memos were unclassified, though he hinted one or two documents he created might have been contained [sic] classified information.

“I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership,” he testified about the one memo he later leaked about former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Contrary to the implication of both Trump’s tweet and the Fox & Friends segment, nowhere in the report does the Hill claim that Comey actually gave classified information to his friend at Columbia. The report merely states that most of the memos Comey wrote were marked as containing some classified information when they were recently shown to Congress. In fact, the Hill’s John Solomon noted that it’s unclear whether the classified information in the memos was classified at the time the memos were written and Politico’s Austin Wright reports Monday afternoon that some of Comey’s memos were indeed classified only retroactively. The bottom line is that we don’t know what exactly Comey gave to his friend, how much of it is classified, or when it was classified.

It’s possible, though, that Comey’s disclosure of material from his memos violated FBI rules, even if not laws pertaining to the leaking of classified information. Solomon writes that the FBI prohibits its employees from releasing information acquired in their official capacities with the FBI without authorization. Congressional investigators are already looking into whether those rules were violated. Solomon writes that those investigators will now also delve into whether Comey did, in fact, mishandle classified material. Trump, of course, seems to have already made up his mind.