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Government watchdog in court again over Comey's memos

WASHINGTON – Fired FBI director James Comey may have been pleased with his strategy of releasing to reporters notes he wrote while visiting with President Trump in order to prompt the naming of a special counsel to review alleged collusion with Russia.

After all, he got his wish with the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.

But Comey also may have created waves that will splash back on him.

Judicial Watch has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department to obtain a memorandum allegedly written by Comey that details his discussions not only with the president but also his aides.

Comey reportedly wrote seven memos detailing his interactions and conversations with President Trump about the Russia investigation.

Officials familiar with the documents claim four of seven of those memos have been determined to contain classified information.

Analysts note that if Comey, in fact, penned memos that contained classified information, he broke FBI protocol, disregarding the same rules that he publicly condemned Hillary Clinton for ignoring last November during the 2016 presidential election.

The FBI has refused for months to release Comey’s memos.

So Judicial Watch filed a FOIA with the Justice Department on June 9 to uncover all unclassified memoranda authored by Comey that “contemporaneously memorialized” his discussions with Trump and his aides from Nov. 8, 2016, to May 9, 2017.

The Justice Department failed to respond to a FOIA request and then declined to respond to an administrative appeal.

“American Greatness: How Conservatism Inc. Missed the 2016 Election & What the D.C. Establishment Needs to Learn,” now at the WND Superstore, outlines what conservatives need to know about their government.

The government watchdog group followed with another FOIA action Thursday on behalf of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Americans have a right know the full facts about former FBI Director James Comey’s unclassified memos regarding his conversations with President Trump and his aides prior to his firing,” said Daily Caller News Foundation co-founder Neil Patel. “And the FBI must be required to honor the Freedom of Information Act.”

“Comey leaked information from these memos so that it could be picked up by the media. So it is a scandal that the FBI is hiding this information contrary to FOIA law,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement.

“That we have to sue in federal court to get a document that was read to a reporter at The New York Times is a scandal,” he said. “This Comey memo should be released forthwith and, frankly, the president can and should order its immediate release.”

Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee June 8, Comey said, shortly after being fired by President Trump, he asked “a close friend” at the Columbia University Law School to leak the memorandum he wrote detailing the conversation he had with the commander in chief.

The memo was leaked by Columbia University professor and former federal prosecutor Dan Richman to the New York Times on May 16.

Comey argued during his testimony that the memo was not classified because it was based on personal “recollection.”

Trump abruptly fired Comey on May 9 as he was in the midst of leading a criminal investigation into whether Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Trump cited Comey’s mishandling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Many Republicans assailed Trump for firing Comey. But according to new transcripts released by the Senate Judiciary Committee Aug. 31, Comey made the decision not to refer Clinton for prosecution months before FBI agents were finished with the criminal investigation into the scandal-plagued former secretary of state and her mishandling of classified information.

In fact, Comey decided to exonerate Clinton before the FBI interviewed Clinton or key witnesses.

The Senate Judiciary Committee learned Comey’s investigation of Clinton was fraudulent after reviewing heavily redacted transcripts of correspondence between two FBI officials close to Comey and the Office of Special Counsel.

The chairman of the committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a senior member of the committee, sent a letter to current FBI Director Christopher Wray demanding an explanation for Comey’s deception. They also demanded that the FBI release all drafts of Comey’s final statement on Clinton’s emails by Sept. 13.

“It appears that in April or early May of 2016, Mr. Comey had already decided he would issue a statement exonerating Secretary Clinton,” the senators said in a letter sent Wednesday to Wray.

“That was long before FBI agents finished their work. Mr. Comey even circulated an early draft statement to select members of senior FBI leadership. The outcome of an investigation should not be prejudged while FBI agents are still hard at work trying to gather the facts.”

Despite the transcripts being “heavily redacted,” the senators explained in a statement that the transaction clearly indicates “that Comey began drafting a statement to announce the conclusion of the Clinton email investigation” before “up to 17 key witnesses including former Secretary Clinton and several of her closest aides” had been interviewed.

“Conclusion first, fact-gathering second; that’s no way to run an investigation. The FBI should be held to a higher standard than that, especially in a matter of such great public interest and controversy,” Grassley and Graham wrote in their letter to Wray.

None of the committee’s Democrats signed onto the request.

The FBI refused to respond to a FOIA request for Clinton’s emails last week, citing a “lack of public interest.” Meanwhile, a majority of voters believe Clinton’s entire FBI file should be released, according to a new Rasmussen survey.

Judicial Watch is currently pursuing six other FOIA lawsuits related to the illegal leaking, surveillance and unmasking targeting Trump and his associates during the FBI’s investigation of alleged Trump collusion with Russia.

The Department of Justice is facing a separate lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch on June 16. That lawsuit seeks to obtain the memo Comey wrote after meeting with Trump regarding Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election. The memo purportedly delineates a conversation between Trump and Comey about a pending investigation of Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn.

On Thursday, the American Center for Law and Justice launched its own investigation into Comey’s actions.

ACLJ’s legal team filed FOIA requests to the FBI, DOJ and the Office of Special Counsel in attempt to hold Comey accountable.

“James Comey broke the sacred trust of the American people. He perpetrated a fraud on the American people. The now fired FBI director conducted a fake criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton,” Jay Sekulow explained on ACLJ’s website. “It has become apparent that he prejudged the investigation and predetermined the outcome months before interviewing key witnesses and Hillary Clinton herself. Today we’re launching our own investigation into Comey’s corruption.”

“American Greatness: How Conservatism Inc. Missed the 2016 Election & What the D.C. Establishment Needs to Learn,” now at the WND Superstore, outlines what conservatives need to know about their government.