We have been discussing the investigation by the Inspector General of the Justice Department into the leaking of FBI memos by former Director James Comey. I have previously explained why there are serious questions concerning Comey’s conduct. Now there is an interesting development after Fox News confirmed that the law professor used by Comey for his leak was in fact a “special government employee” (SGE) for Comey’s FBI. That status of Columbia Professor Daniel Richman raised new concerns
Richman, confirmed “I did indeed have SGE status with the Bureau (for no pay).”
However, that means that Comey not only removed FBI memos (including some classified memos) but he used a Justice Department employee to leak the material to the media. I have previously discussed my view that Comey had acted unprofessionally and possibly unlawfully. However, that misconduct is magnified if if used another DOJ employee to carry out the violation.
Special Government employee means those executive branch officers or employees specified in 18 U.S.C. 202(a). A special Government employee is retained, designated, appointed, or employed to perform temporary duties either on a full-time or intermittent basis, with or without compensation, for a period not to exceed 130 days during any consecutive 365-day period.
Not only did Comey not mention that he used a Justice Department lawyer to leak to the press, but Richman’s status did not appear to be known to the media. His name came up in a text message from FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page on Nov. 2, 2016: “Jesus. Another article pushed by nyt on this. Richman is a friend of Comey and [former FBI general counsel James] baker.”
This is a reference to the Nov. 1, 2016 story headlined, “FBI’s Email Disclosure Broke a Pattern Followed Even This Summer,” that quotes Richman on Comey’s reopening of the the Clinton email case before the election. Richman is not referenced as a SGE, though it is unclear when this status was discussed or granted.
It is already problematic that Comey was tasked with finding leakers and then became a leaker himself. If he also used a SGE that he reportedly brought into the Bureau, the IG investigators could look at the added impropriety of the means used for the leak.