A key watchdog on government, Judicial Watch, is demanding the FBI reveal any other government records that fired FBI Director James Comey might have taken with him when he left office, in addition to the notes about his meetings with President Trump.
Comey has testified to Congress that he took notes on a government computer of his meetings with President Trump and later leaked them to the New York Times through a friend.
The reporting of the notes prompted the invitation for Comey to testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding claims that President Trump and his team colluded with the Russians to influence the 2016 election and tried to shut down investigations into the matter.
Now, the revelation that Comey, who last year famously declined to refer Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information for prosecution, was able to take government records with him as he left office raised questions for Judicial Watch.
The organization has sent a letter to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe warning that the agency has a responsibility under the Federal Records Act to retrieve all of the government documents Comey took with him.
The letter from Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton notes Comey “confirmed that, while in office, he created various memoranda regarding his meetings with President Trump.”
“Mr. Comey also confirmed that, after his departure from the FBI, he provided at least some of these memoranda to a third party, Columbia Law School Professor Daniel Richman, for the purpose of leaking them to the press. Various media outlets now have reported that Professor Richman has provided these memoranda to the FBI. It is unclear whether he still retains copies of the memoranda.”
The letter argued that’s not the proper place for government records to end up.
“These memoranda were created by Mr. Comey while serving as FBI director, were written on his FBI laptop, and concerned official government business. As such, they indisputably are records subject to the Federal Records Act. 44 U.S.C. §§ 2101-18, 2901-09, 3101-07, and 3301-14,” Fitton wrote.
“The fact that Mr. Comey removed these memoranda from the FBI upon his departure, apparently for the purpose of subsequently leaking them to the press, confirms the FBI’s failure to retain and properly manage its records in accordance with the Federal Records Act.”
Fitton said the even if Comey no longer has possession of the memos, as he now claims, some or all of them may still be in possession of a third party, such as Professor Richman, “and must be recovered.”
“Mr. Comey’s removal of these memoranda also suggests that other records may have been removed by Mr. Comey and may remain in his possession or in the possession of others. If so, these records must be recovered by the FBI as well,” Fitton said.
The leak is just one of many by government officials that have slowed down President Trump’s policy agenda.
Critics of the leaks describe the offenders as members of the “Deep State,” or established career bureaucrats within the federal government, many of whom were appointed by President Obama and strongly oppose President Trump.
The document leakers, if discovered, could be charged.
“As you may be aware, the Federal Records Act imposes a direct responsibility on you to take steps to recover any records unlawfully removed from the FBI,” Fitton said.
Specifically, upon learning of ‘any actual, impending, or threatened unlawful removal, defacing, alteration, corruption, deletion, erasure, or other destruction of records in the custody of the agency,’ you must notify the Archivist of the United States. 44 U.S.C. § 3106,” he warned.
“Upon learning that records have been unlawfully removed from the FBI, you then are required to initiate action through the Attorney General for the recovery of records,” said Fitton.
He warned that Judicial Watch has the right to sue if the proper steps are not taken to pursue and retrieve improperly handled government records.
“Mr. Comey took government records and the FBI and Justice Department are obligated to get them back,” Fitton explained. “The former FBI director isn’t above the law and current leadership of the FBI should stop protecting him and take action.”
The watchdog group also said it is pursuing a separate legal challenge to the State Department’s failure to “take any action” to retrieve the emails of former Secretary of State Clinton.