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James Comey broke FBI rules by leaking to New York Times: DOJ watchdog

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The Justice Department’s internal watchdog concluded that former FBI Director James Comey violated FBI protocol by leaking memos about his conversations with President Donald Trump to the media.

Before being fired by Trump, Comey documented several of his interactions with Trump in at least seven memos, some of which he wrote on his classified FBI computer and others on un-classified devices.

In an 83-page report released Thursday, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) concluded that Comey violated DOJ policy by keeping his copies of memos he wrote about Trump after he left the FBI, and leaking a memo he wrote on February 14, 2017 to The New York Times.

Read more:Russia came out the winner of this year’s G7 summit despite being kicked out, and Trump looked like ‘Putin’s puppet’

Trump fired Comey in May 2017, and shortly after, Comey gave four memos about his conversations with Trump to his friend, Columbia University law professor Daniel Richman, and directed him to share one of them with The Times. The memos and Comey’s firing are central to the obstruction-of-justice case the former special counsel Robert Mueller opened against Trump after Comey’s ouster.

Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee last year that he directed Richman to share his memos with the media because he needed “to get that out into the public square.”

The report concluded that Comey both violated FBI policy both by “failing to surrender” the memos and by facilitating the disclosure of Memo 4 to the media.

The OIG, however, “found no evidence that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the memos to members of the media,” according to the report.

Read more: Another domino just fell toward an impeachment inquiry for Trump

The White House initially said Comey was fired because of the way he handled the FBI’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct government business. However, Trump later told NBC’s Lester Holt that “this Russia thing” — referring to Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and the Trump campaign’s possible involvement — was a factor in his decision.

The president also told two top Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting that Comey’s ouster had taken “great pressure” off of him.

Comey’s memos revealed that Trump told him, one day after the firing of national security adviser Michael Flynn, that he hoped the FBI could let go of its investigation into Flynn. Comey said he took the statement as a request for leniency toward Flynn, and the former FBI director said he did not give any indication that he would heed it.

Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to one count of making false statements to investigators about his contacts with Russian officials during the transition period. One day after Flynn’s guilty plea was announced, Trump said that he had to fire Flynn because he misled Vice President Mike Pence and he “lied to the FBI.”

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