After scoring a major court victory on Thursday in its years-long pursuit of any and all emails sent by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pertaining to the Sept.11, 2012 attack in Benghazi, watchdog group Judicial Watch has announced that it’s suing the Department of Justice for failure to turn over records pertaining to former FBI James Comey’s handling of the infamous “Comey memo."
The group is escalating its fight to learn everything it can about the memo that Comey allegedly wrote following a meeting with President Donald Trump where, Comey claims, the president improperly pressured him to drop the bureau’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Specifically, Judicial Watch would like to know how Comey was allowed to walk out the door with a copy of this memo. There’s a strong legal argument that the document, because it was written in his official capacity as FBI director, belongs to the Justice Department and unlawfully taking it would be a felony offense.
Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice for all non-disclosure agreements pertaining to the handling, storage, protection, dissemination, and/or return of classified information that were signed by or on behalf of former FBI Director James Comey (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01624)).
“The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the Justice Department failed to respond to a June 13, 2017, FOIA request seeking “any and all non-disclosure agreements pertaining in full or in part to the handling, storage, protection, dissemination, and/or return of classified and/or sensitive information that were signed by or on behalf of former FBI Director James Comey.” Such records would include:
- All SF-312 (Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement) forms
- All FD-857 (Sensitive Information Nondisclosure Agreement) forms
- All FD-597 (Receipt for Property Received/Returned/Released or Seized) forms
- All FD-291 (FBI Employment Agreement) forms
- All Case Briefing Acknowledgement forms”
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said it’s “outrageous” that JW has had to push so hard for what should be readily available public information.
“How is it the FBI allowed Mr. Comey to walk out the door with sensitive documents about President Trump?” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
“It is remarkable that we have to sue the FBI in federal court to get these answers about this scandal.”
Judicial Watch has filed several lawsuits seeking more information about the Comey memo. Back in June, it sent a warning letter to the FBI reminding it of its obligation to “recover records” – i.e. the memo, which has never been made widely available to the public.
“In June, Judicial Watch sent the FBI a warning letter concerning the FBI’s legal responsibility under the Federal Records Act (FRA) to recover records, including memos Comey subsequently leaked to the media and unlawfully removed from the Bureau by former Director James Comey.
Judicial Watch later filed a FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice for information about Comey’s memorandum written after his meeting with President Trump regarding potential interference by the Russians in the 2016 presidential election (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01189).”
In July, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice for the metadata for the memoranda written by Comey memorializing his conversations with President Donald Trump as well as records about Comey’s FBI-issued laptop computer or other electronic devices and records about how Comey managed his records while he was FBI Director (Judicial Watch, Inc., v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 17-cv-01520)). The metadata information may include details about when the memos were created or edited and by whom."
Comey said during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June that he understood the memo to be “my recollection as a private citizen” and that he felt it was important to get it out. Trump responded with an angry tweet claiming that Comey’s decision to leak the memo was “so illegal.” During his Senate testimony, Comey described how he turned over the memo to a friend, later revealed to be Columbia Law Professor Daniel Richman, who eventually leaked it to the New York Times on Comey's behalf. We’ll see what Trump - who enjoys sticking it to his opponents and rivals when they're down - has to say about the suit, if anything. With the tense rhetoric and tensions surrounding the US and North Korea, the commander-in-chief may not have time for one of his favorite hobbies: Bashing the FBI and its former director.
Read the full lawsuit below: