Why Is Everyone Talking About James Comey Again and Should I Be Mad?

Photo: J. Scott Applewhite (AP)

In a perfect world, none of us would ever have to hear about—or from—former FBI Director James Comey ever again. Alas, Comey remains one of the most exhaustingly inescapable characters of these past few horrible years and keeps getting dragged back into the public eye, this time by today’s report from the inspector general of the Department of Justice.

According to the DOJ’s “Report of Investigation of Former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey’s Disclosure of Sensitive Investigative Information and Handling of Certain Memoranda,” the inspector general found Comey violated FBI policy by passing off a number of documents about his interactions with President Donald Trump to a friend in the hopes of having it published by the media and keeping others in his personal possession after he was ignominiously fired in 2017.

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The report concludes (emphasis mine):

The responsibility to protect sensitive law enforcement information falls in large part to the employees of the FBI who have access to it through their daily duties. On occasion, some of these employees may disagree with decisions by prosecutors, judges, or higher ranking FBI and Department officials about the actions to take or not take in criminal and counterintelligence matters. They may even, in some situations, distrust the legitimacy of those supervisory, prosecutorial, or judicial decisions. But even when these employees believe that their most strongly-held personal convictions might be served by an unauthorized disclosure, the FBI depends on them not to disclose sensitive information. Former Director Comey failed to live up to this responsibility.

By not safeguarding sensitive information obtained during the course of his FBI employment, and by using it to create public pressure for official action, Comey set a dangerous example for the over 35,000 current FBI employees—and the many thousands more former FBI employees—who similarly have access to or knowledge of non-public information.

In other words, Comey did a bad thing in FBI-world. He did not, however, do the even worse thing Trump has repeatedly accused him of: actively leak classified information. As the report states:

The FBI later marked Memo 4 [of seven Comey is accused of mishandling] “For Official Use Only” and determined that it did not contain classified information. We 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.

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Comey himself was quick to jump on it this morning, saying a polite “sorry” might be in order:

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Predictably, Trump took the diametrically opposite route, claiming the report’s criticism of Comey as a victory:

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The president’s sycophantic allies also chimed in:

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Fortunately, it seems Twitter-sniping is the furthest this all will go, as the Justice Department declined to prosecute Comey based on the findings, per the report:

The OIG provided a copy of its factual findings to the Department for a prosecutorial decision. After reviewing the matter, the Department declined prosecution.

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Hopefully, this means we can all go back to our lives without having to think about James Comey or his bad tweets ever again.

 

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About the author

Rafi Schwartz

Senior writer. When in doubt he'll have the soup.