DOJ Won’t Prosecute Comey Over Handling of FBI Memos Despite Watchdog Referral

James Comey comes out of the hearing room at the Rayburn House Office Building after testifying to the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees on Capitol Hill Dec. 7, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

James Comey comes out of the hearing room at the Rayburn House Office Building after testifying to the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees on Capitol Hill Dec. 7, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Justice Department inspector general’s office referred former FBI Director James Comey for potential prosecution over his handling of memos that the FBI later determined contained classified information, a person familiar with the matter confirmed Thursday.

But Justice Department prosecutors declined to prosecute Comey, in part because they didn’t believe there was evidence to show Comey knew and intended to violate laws on handling classified information.

At issue were memos that Comey shared with a friend and attorney, Daniel Richman, who then shared the information with a New York Times reporter.

Two memos Comey shared contained information the FBI deemed as “confidential,” the lowest classification level.

CNN reached out to attorneys for Comey. Richman declined comment.

The Hill first reported on the decision.

The existence of the memos was first revealed in the spring of 2017 when The New York Times reported Comey had written a memo suggesting President Donald Trump asked him to scuttle the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Comey later testified that he provided that one to “a friend” to read to the paper in hopes it would prompt the appointment of a special counsel to lead the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I thought it was something that needed to be done,” Comey told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview last year. “And a private citizen can talk about their unclassified conversations with the President.”

At the time, officials at the FBI knew Comey had memorialized his interactions with the President, but were not aware he shared the contents outside of the bureau until Comey divulged it during testimony he provided to Congress in June 2017, a source familiar with the matter told CNN last year.

In April 2018, Trump, who fired Comey in the spring of 2017, pointed to the memos as a way to question the basis of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, writing in a tweet that Comey “illegally leaked classified documents to the press in order to generate a Special Counsel?”

“Therefore, the Special Council was established based on an illegal act? Really, does everybody know what that means?” the tweet read.

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