LEGAL EXPERTS: COMEY’S ACTIONS ON TRUMP CONVERSATIONS WERE APPROPRIATE
June 8, 2017
Regardless of how Republicans try to spin it, legal experts agree that Comey provided a reasonable explanation for why he didn’t inform his superiors at the DOJ about Trump’s request to drop the Flynn probe, and he made it in consultation with other senior leaders at the FBI.
James Comey: “I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership…The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide…We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General’s role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role. After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed.”
Former DOJ officials and legal experts have agreed that Comey was justified in his decision to withhold Trump conversation from DOJ leadership.
Fmr. Federal Prosecutor Walter Mack: “You have to give the benefit of the doubt to Jim Comey…I think his position was that he had a group of hard-working agents and assessors, evaluators working on it and if, in fact, the memo says what, in fact, it’s purported to say, this would indelibly impact the brains of those investigators working on the case. It might cause them to react in a negative way.
Fmr. DOJ Attorney Michael Zeldin: “You’ve got a recused attorney general, you’ve got a deputy attorney general who perhaps is a witness in this case because of his prior memo alleging that the firing was based on poor Hillary Clinton’s situation. So it may be that he says, ‘I have no one to go to in Justice. I went to senior people in the FBI, names to be disclosed at some point…I didn’t want to interfere with the ongoing investigation of the agents of these issues by surfacing this,’ which is an important factor when you’re in the middle of an important investigation. To demoralize your agents in some way by revealing this is a point that has to be taken into account.”
Former FBI Special Agent Steve More:” “[Comey] went back to the office, he got his lawyers around and he said what are we going to do? Do I call the Justice Department? You mean the one that works for the guy who you’re about to, say, committed a crime that might result in impeachment? No, you sit there and the FBI does this as a matter of policy of course. You make your case, and then you go public. And so, people are saying that he’s not going to talk to – not going to notify a person who reports directly to the suspect, it makes no sense that he would even do that. So, that to me is not even a persuasive argument…The fact that Comey didn’t immediately report it to somebody who worked for Trump means nothing.” [Newsroom, CNN, 5/17/17]
Former FBI Special Agent Steve More: “I’ve heard this all day, that Comey didn’t say anything. Well, the FBI is not like the police. I mean, when, when Donald Trump said something that Comey obviously felt was criminal in nature or potentially criminal in nature, he doesn’t pull out a gun and say you’re under arrest.” [Newsroom, CNN, 5/17/17]
Lawfare's Bobby Chesney: “There is no basis for claiming that Jim Comey took affirmative steps to conceal any alleged obstruction by Donald Trump. To argue that Comey somehow affirmatively concealed something by taking care with who got to see his memo entirely collapses this distinction, and would extend liability for misprision to just about every criminal investigator and prosecutor in this country (given how routine it is for both investigators and prosecutors to create but limit circulation of documents with evidentiary content in this sense).”