The US Department of Justice has opened a probe into whether former FBI director James Comey leaked details about classified intelligence to reporters covering the Hillary Clinton email server scandal.
Led by federal prosecutors, the inquiry is focused on two 2017 news stories for which Comey is suspected to have been a source, divulging the contents of a classified intelligence document, according to a New York Times report on Thursday.
The pair of stories, published in the Times and the Washington Post in 2017, cited an alleged Russian intelligence document obtained by Dutch security services, which earlier played a key role in Comey’s decision to forego charges for former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the server scandal.
Clinton was herself the subject of an FBI probe in 2016 after it was revealed that she used a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state, prompting Comey to conclude publicly that she had been “extremely careless” in using the personal server for official government work. He would ultimately decline to press charges, however.
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The supposed Russian document referenced in the 2017 reports included mention of an email exchange between Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, then the chair of the Democratic National Committee, and a staffer with a progressive NGO, in which Wasserman-Shultz assures the staffer that then-attorney general Loretta Lynch would see that Clinton was not prosecuted.
While the document’s origin and veracity remains a mystery – no evidence has surfaced to prove where it came from – in his memoir, Comey wrote that he feared the “unverified material” would have been “used by political opponents to cast serious doubt on the attorney general’s independence in connection with the Clinton investigation” had it gone public. He decided on those grounds not to move ahead with charges for the former top diplomat.
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Comey was fired as FBI director in 2017 by President Donald Trump, who argued that he was no longer “able to effectively lead the Bureau,” following months of on-off sparring over his handling of the Clinton probe, as well as Comey’s involvement in the then-burgeoning Russiagate scandal.
In August, the DOJ declined to charge Comey for previous leaks to the press, namely memos detailing his private interactions with the president, despite the department concluding that his behavior set a “dangerous example.”
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