President Donald Trump appears to be laying the groundwork for firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller by accusing James Comey of illegally leaking classified information.
Trump tweeted late Friday: ‘James Comey illegally leaked classified documents to the press in order to generate a Special Council[sic]?
‘Therefore, the Special Council [sic] was established based on an illegal act? Really, does everybody know what that means?’
Trump was most likely referring to a report in The Wall Street Journal on Friday about a review of Comey’s memos by the Department of Justice’s internal watchdog.
Two of the memos that Comey wrote and then gave to a friend from outside of the government contained classified information, according to the Journal.
President Donald Trump (left) appears to be laying the groundwork for firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller by accusing James Comey (right) of illegally leaking classified information
Trump tweeted late Friday: ‘James Comey illegally leaked classified documents to the press in order to generate a Special Council[sic]? Therefore, the Special Council [sic] was established based on an illegal act? Really, does everybody know what that means?’
In one memo, Comey redacted the parts that he knew to be classified before he gave them to a friend.
But the second memo is said to have information that was later upgraded to ‘confidential’ – the lowest level of classification.
Those memos are now being reviewed by the inspector general of the Department of Justice.
Comey has said that he leaked the memos after he was fired by Trump as head of the FBI because he felt a duty ‘as a private citizen’ to ensure that a Special Counsel be named to continue the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.
Comey gave four memos to Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at Columbia Law School.
Of the four memos, three were not classified at the time and one did have classified information that Comey himself redacted.
An FBI director has the power to determine what information is regarded as classified and what is not.
But once Comey became a private citizen, the FBI is legally authorized to determine what counts as classified information.
Sometime after Comey’s firing, the FBI upgraded the classification of the memos.
Comey has said that he leaked the memos after he was fired by Trump he felt a duty ‘as a private citizen’ to ensure that a Special Counsel be named to continue the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. Mueller is seen in the image above
Besides Richman, the inspector general has also interviewed other associates of Comey’s from outside of the FBI who may have also received copies of memos, CNN is reporting late Friday.
Trump’s tweet late Friday appears to be an attempt by the president to use the new review by the inspector general as a rationale for firing Mueller.
On Wednesday, Trump refused to say whether he planned to fire Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, as he’s been reportedly wanting to do.
Rosenstein is overseeing the Russia investigation after his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recused himself.
On Thursday, Trump tweeted that the newly released memos written by Comey vindicate him.
‘James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION,’ the president tweeted.
‘Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?’
It has been alleged that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 elections – allegations that are being investigated by Mueller.
Trump fired Comey as FBI director last year.
Investigators want to know if the president’s dismissal of Comey was aimed at derailing the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 elections – an act that could be construed as obstruction of justice.
Trump has denied there was any collusion with Russia.
Trump tweeted late Thursday that the newly released memos written by fired FBI Director James Comey vindicate him
Comey has said he was fired by Trump after the president told him he wanted the ‘cloud’ of the Russia investigation removed.
In a series of startlingly candid conversations, Trump told former FBI Director James Comey that he had serious concerns about the judgment of a top adviser, asked about the possibility of jailing journalists and described a boast from Vladimir Putin about Russia prostitutes, according to Comey’s notes of the talks obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday night.
The 15 pages of documents contain new details about a series of interactions with Trump that Comey found so unnerving that he chose to document them in writing.
Those seven encounters in the weeks and months before Comey’s May 2017 firing include a Trump Tower discussion about a possible encounter between Trump and prostitutes in Moscow; a White House dinner at which Comey says Trump asked him for his loyalty; and a private Oval Office discussion where the ex-FBI head says the president asked him to end an investigation into Michael Flynn, the former White House national security adviser.
The documents had been eagerly anticipated since their existence was first revealed last year, especially since Comey’s interactions with Trump are a critical part of Mueller’s investigation into whether the president sought to obstruct justice.
In explaining the purpose of creating the memos, which have been provided to Mueller, Comey has said he ‘knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened’ to defend not only himself but the FBI as well.
The memos cover the first three months of the Trump administration, a period of upheaval marked by staff turnover, a cascade of damaging headlines and revelations of an FBI investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The documents reflect Trump’s uneasiness about that investigation, though not always in ways that Comey seemed to anticipate.
In a February 2017 conversation, for instance, Trump told Comey how Putin told him, ‘we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world’ even as he adamantly, and repeatedly, distanced himself from a salacious allegation concerning him and prostitutes in Moscow, according to one memo.
In another memo, Comey recounts how Trump at a private White House dinner pointed his fingers at his head and complained that Flynn, his embattled national security adviser, ‘has serious judgment issues.’
The president blamed Flynn for failing to alert him promptly to a congratulatory call from a world leader, causing a delay for Trump in returning a message to an official whose name is redacted in the documents.
‘I did not comment at any point during this topic and there was no mention or acknowledgment of any FBI interest in or contact with General Flynn,’ Comey wrote.
By that point, the FBI had already interviewed Flynn about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and the Justice Department had already warned White House officials that they were concerned Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail.
Flynn was fired Feb. 13, 2017, after White House officials said he had misled them about his Russian contacts during the transition period by saying that he had not discussed sanctions.
The following day, according to a separate memo, Comey says Trump cleared the Oval Office of other officials, encouraged him to let go of the investigation into Flynn and called him a good guy.
Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
The memos reveal that days before Flynn’s firing, then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked Comey if Flynn’s communications were being monitored under a secret surveillance warrant.
‘Do you have a FISA order on Mike Flynn?’ Priebus asked Comey, according to the memos, referring to an order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Comey said he ‘paused for a few seconds and then said that I would answer here, but that this illustrated the kind of question that had to be asked and answered through established channels.’
Comey’s response is redacted on the unclassified memos.
The memos also show Trump’s continued distress at a dossier of allegations – since revealed to have been funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign – examining potential ties between him and his aides and the Kremlin.
Comey writes how Trump repeatedly denied to him having been involved in an encounter with Russian prostitutes in a Moscow hotel.
‘The President said ‘the hookers thing’ is nonsense, but that Putin had told him “we have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world”,’ according to one memo. Comey says Trump did not say when Putin had made the comment.
The documents also include the president’s musings about pursing leakers and imprisoning journalists.
They also provide insight into Comey’s personal and professional opinions.
He judges the administration’s travel ban to be legally valid, and he takes a swipe at former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, calling her predecessor, Eric Holder, ‘smarter and more sophisticated and smoother.’
The memos were provided to Congress earlier Thursday as House Republicans escalated criticism of the Justice Department, threatening to subpoena the documents and questioning officials.
In a letter sent to three Republican House committee chairmen Thursday evening, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote that the department was sending a classified version of the memos and an unclassified version.
The department released Boyd’s letter publicly but did not release the memos.
The chairman issued a statement late Thursday saying the memos show that Comey clearly never felt obstructed or threatened.
Justice officials had allowed some lawmakers to view the memos but had never provided copies to Congress.
Boyd wrote that the department had also provided the memos to several Senate committees.
Boyd wrote in the letter that the department ‘consulted the relevant parties’ and concluded that releasing the memos would not adversely affect any ongoing investigations.
Mueller is investigating potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign as well as possible obstruction of justice by the president.
Comey is on a publicity tour to promote his new book, A Higher Loyalty.
He revealed last year that he had written the memos after conversations with Trump.
He said in an interview Thursday with CNN that he’s ‘fine’ with the Justice Department turning his memos over to Congress.
‘I think what folks will see if they get to see the memos is I’ve been consistent since the very beginning, right after my encounters with President Trump, and I’m consistent in the book and tried to be transparent in the book as well,’ he said.