Former FBI Director James Comey admitted Thursday at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that he leaked memos about his meetings with President Donald Trump through a third party to the media and lawyers now question the legality of that release.
Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal lawyer, told reporters Thursday that Comey admitted to unauthorized disclosures of privileged information and would let the appropriate authorities determine whether an investigation should happen.
“Although Mr. Comey testified he only leaked the memos in response to a tweet, the public record reveals that the New York Times was quoting from these memos the day before the referenced tweet, which belies Mr. Comey’s excuse for this unauthorized disclosure of privileged information and appears to entirely retaliatory,” Kasowitz said.
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley stated on his website that although the memos were created by Comey, the former FBI director would likely have to follow federal non-disclosure laws of classified and unclassified information.
Turley writes, “Besides being subject to Nondisclosure Agreements, Comey falls under federal laws governing the disclosure of classified and non-classified information. Assuming that the memos were not classified (though it seems odd that it would not be classified even on the confidential level), there is 18 U.S.C. § 641 which makes it a crime to steal, sell, or convey ‘any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof.’”
Additionally, Turley notes that Comey created the memos on a government computer so the memos could be classified as government documents and not something he owns.
“The problem is that Comey’s description of his use of an FBI computer to create memoranda to file suggests that these are arguably government documents. Comey admitted that he thought he raised the issue with his staff and recognized that they might be needed by the Department or Congress. They read like a type of field 302 form, which are core investigatory documents,” he says.
Leaking the documents places Comey into a legal box, Turley explains, as the FBI restricts using material to harm a “former represented person or individual or firm related to prior representation,” and the FBI website specifically says:
Dissemination of FBI information is made strictly in accordance with provisions of the Privacy Act; Title 5, United States Code, Section 552a; FBI policy and procedures regarding discretionary release of information in accordance with the Privacy Act; and other applicable federal orders and directives.