Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is pressing the Justice Department for answers on whether James Comey violated bureau rules, saying it appears the former FBI director leaked “at least one” classified memo to a professor friend shortly after his firing.
Grassley, R-Iowa, penned a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein late Wednesday, saying he and his staff had reviewed the Comey memos which were “created purportedly memorializing his interactions with President Trump.” They did so in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) at the FBI and the Senate, because the FBI deemed the “majority of the memos” to be “classified.”
"Of the seven memos, four are marked classified at the 'SECRET'or 'CONFIDENTIAL' levels," Grassley wrote, adding that "only three did not contain classified information.”
Grassley’s letter appears to back up July 2017 reports that several of Comey’s private memos contained classified material. The Hill first reported this development; Fox News confirmed with a legal source at the time that some material contained classified information. The president seized on those reports at the time with a tweet saying: “That is so illegal!”
Comey admitted in congressional testimony in June 2017 that he had given his friend, Columbia University Professor Daniel Richman, his memos about discussions with Trump in order to have his notes leaked to The New York Times -- hoping to spur the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Richman told Fox News in July that he indeed received four memos from Comey, but said none of them were marked classified.
Richman told Fox News that only the “substance” of one memo, not the physical document, was given to the press. “That was not classified at the time, and remains unclassified,” he said.
But in his letter to Rosenstein, Grassley said that if Richman had four of the memos, it would appear one of them had classified information.
“If it’s true that Professor Richman had four of the seven memos, then in light of the fact that four of the seven memos the Committee reviewed are classified, it would appear that at least one memo the former FBI director gave Professor Richman contained classified information,” Grassley wrote.
Grassley went on to press Rosenstein over whether Comey violated any Justice Department or FBI rules in sharing such information with Richman, and questioned whether the department had launched an investigation into Comey’s handling of confidential, classified information.
The Justice Department told Fox News Thursday that they would not “confirm or deny investigations,” and declined further comment.
The FBI employee agreement, which all agents sign, states: “Unauthorized disclosure, misuse, or negligent handling of information contained in the files, electronic or paper, of the FBI or which I may acquire as an employee of the FBI could impair national security, place human life in jeopardy, result in the denial of due process, prevent the FBI from effectively discharging its responsibilities, or violate federal law.”
Grassley also asked whether Richman still retained the memos or copies of them.
“FBI personnel refused to answer factual questions during the document reviews, including questions about the chain of custody of the documents I was reviewing, the dates that they were marked classified, and who marked them classified,” Grassley wrote.
The FBI told Fox News Thursday that they had no comment on Grassley’s letter or his requests for information.
When asked whether he still had the memos, or copies of such, in his possession, Richman told Fox News he had “no further comment.”
Grassley said that even after review of the documents, the committee has not determined which of the seven were given to Richman, and requested the Justice Department share that information with them by Jan. 17.