Mainstream media has settled on its line about the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General report on former FBI Director Jim Comey: Nothing to see here because none of the information in the memo Comey directed his attorney to leak to the New York Times was classified.
The Washington Post painted the findings as a failure for President Donald Trump. “New IG report rebukes Comey – and debunks Trump,” read the headline on Aaron Blake’s story.
Blake wrote that we should have expected a “mixed bag” in the report, given Comey “has always been a complicated man in American politics.” Republicans were furious with him in 2016 for declining to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her email abuse before the FBI, which Comey then led, had even interviewed her. Democrats were furious when, just days before the election, Comey announced some other emails had come to light that could cause him to reopen the investigation – though he never did.
“But the report also disclosed that the FBI has declined to prosecute Comey for these violations and – notably – it says there is ‘no evidence’ that he or his attorneys leaked classified information,” Blake wrote. “That last point is key, because Trump has accused Comey of exactly that, and repeatedly – at least 10 times over two years, according to a review of Trump’s comments.”
So the big takeaway, according to Blake, was that Trump claimed Comey had released classified documents, and the inspector general stated the memo Comey ordered leaked to the Times was not found to have included classified or sensitive information until after he gave it to the newspaper.
Eric Tucker of the Associated Press followed the same pattern in “Watchdog: Comey violated FBI policies in handling of memos.”
“Trump, who has long regarded Comey as one of his principal antagonists in a law enforcement community he sees as biased against him, cheered the conclusions on Twitter,” he wrote, pointing to a tweet the president issued saying “Perhaps never in the history of our Country has someone been more thoroughly disgraced and excoriated than James Comey in the just-released Inspector General’s Report. He should be ashamed of himself!” – and a statement from the White House that called Comey a “proven liar and leaker.”
“But the report denied Trump and his supporters, who have repeatedly accused Comey of leaking classified information, total vindication,” Tucker wrote. “It found that none of the information shared by him or his attorneys with anyone in the media was classified. The Justice Department has declined to prosecute Comey.”
Comey tweeted that he didn’t “need a public apology from those who defamed me, but a quick message with a ‘sorry we lied about you’ would be nice.” He also tweeted: “And to all those who’ve spent two years talking about me ‘going to jail’ or being a ‘liar and a leaker’ – ask yourselves why you still trust people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president.”
Kim Strassel took on that criticism directly in her Wall Street Journal piece. She said Comey once told Trump “I don’t do sneaky things. I don’t leak. I don’t do weasel moves.” But his handling of these memos, as the inspector general stated, “was consistently leaky and sneaky,” Strassel wrote. “He repeatedly, and knowingly, broke the rules.”
And as Jonathan Turley, the Democrat law professor at George Washington University who has written on this extensively, said in The Hill, the FBI conducted a classification review of the documents Comey took with him when he was fired by Trump, but not until the story that would lead to the appointment of the special counsel had appeared in the New York Times.
“The reason is that Comey never asked for such a review, any more than he asked for permission as a fired FBI employee to remove the material or leak it to the media,” Turley wrote. “According to the report, senior officials stated they were ‘stunned’ and ‘shocked’ by Comey removing and disclosing the information.”