Former FBI Director James Comey is back in the news this week after The New York Times reported late Thursday that he is again under investigation for leaking information to the media. The Justice Department Inspector General previously found that Comey was a leaker and violated FBI policy in his handling of FBI memos, including material containing the “code name and true identity” of a sensitive source. Now, he is again accused of leaking information. There is an element of a modus operandi in the story since the same academic Comey used in the earlier leaks is also named in this leak, Columbia Law Professor Daniel Richman.
The Times reports that Comey is under investigation for illegally leaking information concerning a Russian document obtained by Dutch intelligence from Russian computers that claimed “a tacit understanding between the Clinton campaign and the [Obama] Justice Department over the inquiry into whether she intentionally revealed classified information through her use of a private email server.” The document was discussed by Richman in a 2017 Times article.
The document referenced alleged discussions between Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., then the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, and Leonard Benardo, who worked a George Soros-founded group called Open Society Foundations. It details how Schultz assured Benardo that the fix was in with Lynch who would guarantee that Clinton would not be prosecuted. Both Schultz and Benardo have denied the story.
The Inspector General previously referred Comey for possible prosecution but the Justice Department under Attorney General Bill Barr rejected the prosecution.
What is striking about this story is that the underlying information was not derived from a Comey memo but a classified intelligence document supplied by an allied intelligence service. There is however no details on evidence that Comey used the same conduit in Richman to leak this information. The theory seems to be that Comey was concerned about the document in undermining the decision not to prosecute Clinton. Yet, it is not clear why leaking the information advanced the goal of justifying the non-prosecution position that Comey would announce in his controversial press conference. The coverage says that “suspicions” of Comey’s role were raised by his familiarity with the document and apparently the connection with Richman as someone who previously was used by Comey to leak information.
The Times is suggesting that the belated investigation may be evidence that the Justice Department is “politicizing” its work. What is striking however is that this particular leak was never fully explained on who was responsible or why no action was taken on the leaking of clearly sensitive intelligence shared by an ally.