In a stunning turn of events, former FBI Director James Comey made a recent admission during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he intentionally leaked to the press details of his private conversations with the president, and that he did so in order to prod the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel.
The unprecedented nature of this part of Comey’s testimony can be summed up in this way: The director of the top law enforcement organization in the U.S. intentionally leaked documents to the media in order to manipulate the system, and Comey’s surreptitious action came after the president, on numerous occasions, asked him to investigate leakers.
Quite frankly, the whole thing is beyond a screenwriter’s wildest imagination.
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge recently noted that there has never been a head of the FBI who has engaged in such conduct. "I can’t remember a time ever where a former FBI director has deliberately leaked the contents of a government document so it would get to a reporter in the hopes that it would prompt a special counsel investigation," Herridge declared.
While under oath, Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he gave the contents of a memo to a friend — Columbia University law professor Daniel Richman — the substance of which involved Comey’s private conversations with the president. The former FBI director explained that he did so in order to leak the information to the news media.
According to a faculty webpage, professor Richman is "currently an adviser to FBI Director James B. Comey." The question must be raised that if Comey truly believed his actions were appropriate, why would he then use an intermediary to leak the contents of the memo?
Whatever the reasoning behind the wholly questionable behavior, the net result of Comey’s testimony is that he has made himself a target of criminal investigations.
Comey used an FBI computer to create a memo of an incident that took place within his scope of work, which involved a meeting with the president and the conversation that transpired between the then-acting director and the chief executive.
The above referenced memo is a government document that could potentially represent an item of evidence in the event that a criminal investigation ensues. The intentional disclosure of such a document without authorization violates a specific federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 641, which sets forth that it is a crime when an individual "without authority, sells, conveys or disposes of any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof . . . "
Comey had apparently not been granted clearance from anyone in the government to release the memo.
For those who are found to be in violation, the previously mentioned statute carries with it serious criminal liability, including the imposition of up to 10 years prison incarceration for anyone convicted. Additionally, it is not necessary under the statute for the document in question to be classified; however, if it were classified this could trigger additional federal laws.
There is another legal problem that Comey is facing. In his previous public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the former director may have perjured himself while responding to a specific question from Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
On May 3, Comey told Grassley that he never leaked secret information nor did he have anyone else do so on his behalf. Grassley directly asked Comey whether he had ever been an anonymous source for reporters about the Hillary Clinton email investigation or the Russia investigation. Comey answered, "No."
Grassley went a step further, asking Comey whether he had ever authorized anyone else to be an anonymous source on his behalf, on either the Clinton email investigation or the Russia investigation. Comey again responded, "No."
Aside from possible criminal issues, Comey’s testimony has severe implications regarding Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the current investigation.
As Gregg Jarrett of Fox News recently pointed out, a pre-existing conflict of interest was already apparent, due to the fact that Mueller and Comey are former colleagues and close friends "who worked hand-in-hand for years at the FBI."
Many folks in the D.C. Beltway describe the two as being "joined at the hip." And Jarrett wrote that “Comey regards his predecessor as a mentor, while Mueller considers Comey his protégé.”
During his testimony, Comey made it a point to heap praise on Mueller, referring to him as "one of this country’s great, great pros." He also characterized him as "one of the finest people and public servants this country’s ever produced" and "a dogged, tough person," adding that “you can have high confidence that, when it’s done, he’s turned over all the rocks,” and he assured everyone that when it comes to leading the investigation "you’ve got the right person . . . "
Prior to his recent testimony, it was clear that Comey would be a key witness in the investigation of which Mueller is in charge. However, particularly in light of Comey’s sworn testimony and the fact that the former director may potentially be a target of the investigation, the conflict of interest has become exacerbated as the high-stakes drama unfolds.
Comey reportedly gave Mueller a "preview" of his testimony. Again some important questions arise as to whether Comey told Mueller about his purposeful leak to The New York Times and whether Mueller gave Comey the green light to go ahead with his testimony.
Obviously, Comey’s disclosure that he deliberately leaked a memorandum of a conversation with the president because he "thought that [the leak] might prompt the appointment of a special counsel" brings into question the entire process by which Mueller was appointed.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich commented on his Facebook page about the Comey leak testimony, saying that it "brings into question whether the Congress should shut down the special counsel because it is poisoned fruit."
In other words, since the head of the top law enforcement organization in the nation went outside the system and deliberately and illicitly manipulated the Department of Justice in order to have a special counsel appointed, there is an issue of whether the underlying reason by which the special counsel was appointed is legitimate.
As the acting FBI director, Comey, could have submitted a letter to the attorney general in which he asked for a special counsel. He could similarly have sent a letter to Congress.
Instead he acted in a covert manner and leaked to an outlet known to be hostile to the president.
The appointment of a special counsel, which came about as a result of an intentional and illicit leak, is one that lacks legitimacy and credibility.
Taking all of this in its totality, it is simply time for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to step down.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
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