President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress slammed former FBI director James Comey on Thursday following the release of a highly anticipated report by the Justice Department’s inspector general on his handling of memos documenting private conversations with the president.
"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!" Trump tweeted.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham followed up with a statement calling Comey a "proven liar and leaker" -- which Comey denied -- and saying he "disgraced himself and his office to further a personal political agenda."
The report documented numerous violations by the former FBI director, including giving one memo containing unclassified information to a friend with instructions to share the contents with a reporter, and failing to notify the FBI after he was dismissed in May 2017 that he had retained some of the memos in a safe at home.
Calling Comey “dishonest” and his actions “disgraceful,” numerous congressional Republicans pointed to his actions as indicative of "Obama Justice Department" efforts to "undermine" Trump.
“By leaking his confidential communications with the President in an attempt to save face in the wake of his firing, Mr. Comey believed he was above the rules of the DOJ,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in a statement. “His actions were disgraceful and part of a wider effort within the Obama Justice Department to undermine President Trump.”
For his part, Comey zeroed in on a section that said he didn't leak classified material directly to the media -- and urged his critics to tell him "sorry we lied about you."
But Rep. Doug Collins, who is from Georgia and the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, claimed the IG report’s findings are evidence that there needs to be further inquiry into the origins of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election that was spearheaded by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Comey's leaked memos, which among other things indicated Trump was pressuring him to ease off an investigation into former adviser Michael Flynn, helped spur Mueller's appointment.
“This report confirms that James Comey violated the FBI's own standards of conduct and was dishonest about how he handled classified material,” Collins said in a statement. “This further cements the need for us to get to the root of how the Russia investigation began. It's time to restore Americans' confidence that federal law enforcement is committed to justice and free from political gamesmanship."
The IG report looked into memos Comey wrote between January 2017 and April 2017 about conversations with Trump that Comey found unnerving or unusual. These include a dinner at which Comey says Trump asked him to pledge his loyalty to him and a private Oval Office meeting weeks later at which Comey says the president asked him to drop an FBI investigation into Flynn.
One week after he was fired, Comey provided a copy of the memo about Flynn to Dan Richman, his personal lawyer and friend, and instructed him to share the contents of it with a specific reporter from The New York Times.
Comey has said he wanted to make details of the conversation public in hopes of triggering the appointment of a special counsel to lead the FBI investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
“This is the first of what I expect will be several more ugly and damning rebukes of senior DOJ and FBI officials regarding their actions and biases toward the Trump campaign of 2016,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted on Thursday.
Despite the findings that Comey violated FBI rules, the Justice Department declined earlier in August to file any charges against the former FBI director. But the information laid out Thursday in the IG report gave Republicans ample ammunition to fire at Comey and his defenders.
“James Comey constantly described himself as acting in favor of a thorough process and transparency—even as he routinely hid information from President Trump about the dossier's shoddy credibility and Clinton paid-for origins,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said on Twitter.
One section of the report that drew considerable criticism from Republicans was former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s assertion that Comey only shared the information about his conversations with Trump with a “very, very small group” of close advisers.
“A ‘very, very small group’ is usually how coups work,” GOP national spokesperson Elizabeth Harrington tweeted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.