President Trump said Friday that James Comey is “lucky” that Attorney General Bill Barr did not prosecute him, claiming the “disastrous” Justice Department inspector general report released this week exposed an illegal scheme to strip away his and his supporters' rights.
The report released Thursday revealed that the former FBI director repeatedly violated FBI policies by drafting, leaking and retaining memos of his conversations with the president. The DOJ considered the findings but did not bring charges.
“The fact that James Comey was not prosecuted for the absolutely horrible things he did just shows how fair and reasonable Attorney General Bill Barr is," Trump tweeted on Friday. "So many people and experts that I have watched and read would have taken an entirely different course. Comey got lucky!”
Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s investigation determined that Comey’s memos were “official FBI records” that should have been more carefully handled, concluding that Comey set a “dangerous example” with his actions.
“By not safeguarding information obtained during the course of his FBI employment, and by using it to create public pressure for official action, Comey set a dangerous example for the over 35,000 current FBI employees—and the many thousands more former FBI employees—who similarly have access to or knowledge of non-public information,” the report stated.
Comey broke FBI policies numerous times with the memos, the report indicated, including by “providing one of the unclassified memos that contained official FBI information, including sensitive investigative information, to his friend with instructions for the friend to share the contents of the memo with a reporter.”
Comey has admitted he did that with the hope it would spur the appointment of a special counsel to take over the Russia probe.
But Trump, after saying little about the report on the day of its release, said Friday the probe exposed how “unfairly” he and those who support his presidency were treated.
“The disastrous IG Report on James Comey shows, in the strongest of terms, how unfairly I, and tens of millions of great people who support me, were treated,” Trump tweeted. “Our rights and liberties were illegally stripped away by this dishonest fool. We should be given our stolen time back?”
Horowitz’s report not only revealed Comey’s violation of FBI policies but offered new details about Comey’s interactions with Trump during the transition period, and how that may have played into the Russia investigation.
During the transition period, Comey met with Trump several times. But even as the FBI director at the time assured Trump that he was not personally under investigation, officials were apparently curious about what the president had to say during a Jan. 6, 2017 meeting at Trump Tower about the salacious allegations laid out in the now-infamous anti-Trump dossier.
Then-CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers also attended the meeting, but “agreed that the briefing” on the dossier claims “needed to be one-on-one, so that Comey could present the ‘salacious’ information in the most discreet and least embarrassing way.”
There was discussion, according to the IG report, about whether Trump “might make statements about, or provide information of value to, the pending Russia interference investigation" known as "Crossfire Hurricane."
After Comey shared the claims included in the dossier with Trump, he observed the president’s reactions and quickly documented them for investigative purposes, according to the inspector general.
“Comey said he had a secure FBI laptop waiting for him in his FBI vehicle and that when he got into the vehicle, he was handed the laptop and ‘began typing as the vehicle moved,’” the inspector general report read.
Comey later headed to the New York FBI field office to discuss the matter in a secure videoconference with other members of the Crossfire Hurricane team, according to the report. That team, including fired FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and former FBI counsel Lisa Page, was launched in July 2016, when Strzok formally opened the FBI’s initial Russia investigation.
Republicans have pushed for further scrutiny of the FBI and DOJ’s actions, and have pointed to ongoing investigations that could further implicate other former top officials.
“This is the first of what we can expect to be more disclosures holding former FBI and DOJ officials accountable for their improper conduct against President Trump and his campaign,” said Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., after the Comey report was released. “I look forward to those findings.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, also said he looked forward to the findings “related to abuses of the FISA process.”
Horowitz has acknowledged that his office was already reviewing potential abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by the FBI during the Russia investigation. Earlier this year, Barr assigned U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham to examine alleged improper government surveillance on the Trump campaign in 2016, during the Crossfire Hurricane probe.
The Justice Department’s internal review of the Russia investigation has been focusing on transcripts of recordings made by at least one government source who met with former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos overseas in 2016, specifically looking at why certain “exculpatory” material from them was not presented in subsequent applications for surveillance warrants, Fox News has reported.
The transcripts were classified, according to sources, but Barr likely would have access to those documents after Trump’s move in May to approve declassification of documents related to the surveillance of his campaign during the 2016 election.
Fox News' Gregg Re and Alex Pappas contributed to this report.