The memos that former FBI Director James Comey kept of his conversations with President Donald Trump regarding the FBI's Russia investigation reportedly contain classified information and are official government documents, a new report reveals.
The Hill reported Sunday, citing officials familiar with the memos, that four of Comey's "Trump memos" contain classified information ranging from the "confidential" to "secret" intelligence classification levels. In all, Comey wrote seven memos detailing nine conversations he had with Trump.
The revelation undermines testimony Comey gave to the Senate Intelligence Committee last month when he claimed the memos were both personal and likely contained little or no classified information. If true, it would also weaken his sharp criticism of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, whom he castigated on national television last year for retaining classified information on a private email server, though he ultimately declared that the FBI would not recommend charges against her.
During his Senate testimony, Comey admitted that he leaked information from a conservation with Trump to Columbia University lawyer friend Daniel Richman. Comey said he leaked the information in hopes that it would increase pressure on the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel to continue the FBI's Russia meddling investigation, which includes allegations that Trump's presidential campaign had inappropriate contact with Russian officials.
The move worked — just a little more than a week after Comey was dismissed as FBI director, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel.
Before leaking the documents, Comey told the Senate committee that one or two of the memos may have contained classified information, but he claimed he prepared the documents in such a way that any potential sensitive information was removed, while doubling down on his belief that they were personal documents.
"So, you didn't consider your memo or your sense of that conversation to be a government document? You considered it to be, somehow, your own personal document that you could share to the media as you wanted through a friend?" Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) asked Comey during the Senate hearing.
"Correct. I understood this to be my recollection recorded of my conversation with the president. As a private citizen, I thought it important to get it out," Comey said. "My view was that the content of those unclassified, memorialization of those conversations was my recollection recorded."
However, when the memos were shown to Congress in recent days, the FBI determined that all seven were official government documents. That means Comey potentially broke the FBI's strict policy regarding documents and other FBI property.
From the bureau's policy:
Unauthorized disclosure, misuse, or negligent handling of information contained in the files, electronic or paper, of the FBI or which I may acquire as an employee of the FBI could impair national security, place human life in jeopardy, result in the denial of due process, prevent the FBI from effectively discharging its responsibilities, or violate federal law.
All information acquired by me in connection with my official duties with the FBI and all official material to which I have access remain the property of the United States of America. I will surrender upon demand by the FBI, or upon my separation from the FBI, all materials containing FBI information in my possession.
I will not reveal, by any means, any information or material from or related to FBI files or any other information acquired by virtue of my official employment to any unauthorized recipient without prior official written authorization by the FBI.
It isn't clear if the memo Comey leaked contained any classified information, but according to the Hill, the memo concerned former national security adviser Micheal Flynn. However, the memos were in Comey's possession once he left the FBI, he admitted to Congress. He said he later turned them over to special counsel Mueller.
It's also not clear if the classified information contained in Comey's memos were classified at the time he possessed them or classified afterward, sources told the Hill.
Moving forward, congressional investigators will likely now investigate whether or not Comey mishandled classified information as FBI director or illegally retained it after returning to life as a private citizen.
It's not clear when this would begin, but it would likely force Comey to once again return to Capitol Hill to be grilled by Congress.