Comey’s leak ad­mis­sion may put him in le­gal jeop­ardy

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAN BOY­LAN

It was re­ported as a dam­ag­ing day for the White House, but the frank, dra­matic ad­mis­sion by fired FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey last week about how he man­aged to put his con­fi­den­tial con­ver­sa­tions with Pres­i­dent Trump on the front page of the na­tion’s news­pa­pers has some le­gal ex­perts say­ing Mr. Comey may be in trou­ble him­self over unau­tho­rized leak­ing.

Crit­ics of Mr. Comey say his cal­cu­lated for­mu­la­tion and leak of the memos through a third party sug­gest his ac­tions were part of a de­lib­er­ate and ven­detta-driven plot — cross­ing dan­ger­ous lines re­gard­ing the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments and FBI con­duct. They say Mr. Comey should be in­ves­ti­gated too.

While they’ve men­tioned pos­si­ble vi­o­la­tions of the Es­pi­onage Act, or pros­e­cutable breaches of FBI pro­to­col, the real point of con­tro­versy cen­ters on Mr. Comey’s ad­mis­sion that he leaked his memos to “prompt the ap­point­ment of a spe­cial coun­sel” — which hap­pened soon af­ter the sub­stance of his memos went pub­lic. This, they say, ex­poses his ac­tion as more of a self-serv­ing Wash­ing­ton op­er­a­tor, than a move legally pro­tected by the for­mer head of the FBI.

“Our re­la­tion­ship didn’t get off to a great start given the con­ver­sa­tion I had to have,” Mr. Comey ex­plained as to why he wrote the memos.

Crit­ics say Mr. Comey’s use of a friend to con­vey the memo’s rev­e­la­tions to The New York Times last month is ev­i­dence that the leak was a mul­ti­step plot to take the down the pres­i­dent and that Mr. Comey ex­e­cuted a sort of po­lit­i­cal ven­detta. The pres­i­dent has lit­tle doubt that it was Mr. Comey’s leak­ing — not what he leaked — that is the real crime in their con­flict.

“He’s a leaker,” Mr. Trump told re­porters at a Rose Gar­den press con­fer­ence the day af­ter Mr. Comey’s tes­ti­mony. His lawyer, Marc Ka­sowitz, has made the sur­rep­ti­tious way Mr. Comey first di­vulged the con­tents of the memos a cen­tral part of his de­fense of his client.

Mr. Comey’s “ex­cuse for this unau­tho­rized dis­clo­sure of priv­i­leged in­for­ma­tion ... ap­pears to be en­tirely re­tal­ia­tory,” Mr. Ka­sowitz said in the state­ment af­ter the FBI chief had tes­ti­fied pub­licly last week. “We will leave it [to] the ap­pro­pri­ate au­thor­i­ties to de­ter­mine whether th­ese leaks should be in­ves­ti­gated along with all those oth­ers be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.”

Mr. Comey’s le­gal sup­port­ers in­sist the dis­clo­sure was well within his con­sti­tu­tional rights. They add that it may have been a threat­en­ing tweet from Mr. Trump im­ply­ing that he had tapes of their dis­cus­sions that gave Mr. Comey the cover to leak legally.

Mr. Comey him­self told the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee last that “my judg­ment was I needed to get [the memos] out into the pub­lic square.” He went on, “So, I asked a friend of mine to share the con­tent of the memo with a re­porter. I didn’t do it my­self for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, but I asked him to be­cause I thought that might prompt the ap­point­ment of a spe­cial coun­sel.”

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