Former Obama-era FBI Director James Comey ducked an initial legal hurdle this week when the DOJ announced it will not seek to prosecute him for leaking classified information meant to harm President Trump.
Mr. Comey is not out of legal trouble yet, though, as he faces a second even more potentially serious investigation into his part in the FISA abuse scandal that was initiated by the Obama administration and used to spy on the then-Trump campaign.
The Justice Department declined to prosecute former FBI Director James Comey following a criminal referral from the agency’s independent watchdog, which concluded that Comey had leaked classified information and showed a lack of candor with investigators.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz reached out to prosecutors about one of the memos Comey leaked to a friend, which detailed a conversation he had with President Trump, after he was fired by President Trump in May 2017.
Although prosecutors found the watchdog’s findings compelling, they decided against prosecution under classified information protection laws because of there being too much uncertainty surrounding Comey’s intent, according to the Hill. A month after he was fired, Comey testified to Congress he had leaked his notes to a friend to give to the media, hoping that it would spark a special counsel investigation.
Then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel the day after the New York Times first reported on details from one of Comey’s leaked memos, which claimed Trump pressed his FBI director to drop an investigation into his national security adviser Michael Flynn. That memo was classified as “confidential” — the lowest classification level — after Comey sent the information.
With other investigations focused on the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation underway, one source said the DOJ did not want to “make its first case against the Russia investigators with such thin margins and look petty and vindictive.”
Although the DOJ declined to prosecute in this case, Comey, who has become a vocal critic of the president since his ouster, is not yet in the clear.
Comey is also a possible target of Horowitz’s separate investigation into alleged Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuse. He signed three of the four FISA applications targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page before being fired by Trump. Horowitz’s report is expected to be released after Labor Day.
It is also likely that Comey’s actions as FBI director will be scrutinized during the “investigation of the investigators,” a review of the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, being led by Attorney General William Barr and the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, John Durham.