Four of the seven memos that former FBI Director James Comey wrote following his interactions with President Trump contained classified information, according to a new report.
The revelation, reported by The Hill, undercuts Comey’s claim during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last month that he believed that the information in the memos was unclassified.
It would also appear to undermine his criticism of Hillary Clinton regarding her decision to keep classified documents after leaving the State Department in 2013.
Officials who reviewed the memos told The Hill that four of the documents have been marked by the FBI as containing information classified as both “Confidential” and “Secret.”
Comey has said that he memorialized his personal meetings and phone conversations with Trump because he felt uneasy about the circumstances of their encounters. Their first one-on-one meeting was a private dinner at the White House on Jan. 27. The pair also talked privately in the Oval Office on Feb. 14.
In that meeting, Comey says Trump asked him to close the FBI’s investigation of Michael Flynn, who Trump had fired as national security adviser the day before.
The existence of the memos was not revealed until after Trump fired Comey on May 9. In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last month, he maintained that he believed that the information in the memos was unclassified. He also said that he leaked at least one of the documents to a Columbia law professor friend of his.
“My thinking was if I write it in such a way that I don’t include anything that would trigger a classification, that would make it easier to discuss within the FBI and the government and to hold onto it in a way that makes it accessible to us,” Comey testified.
Comey’s friend, Daniel Richman, shared details of the memo Comey wrote after the Feb. 14 meeting with a reporter at The New York Times.
Comey gave the memo to Richman because he hoped the information in the document would spur the appointment of a special counsel to conduct the ongoing investigation into potential Trump campaign collusion with the Russian government.
“I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter,” Comey testified. “I didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”
Richman reportedly gave the memos in his possession to the FBI.
Also in his testimony, Comey said that he did not turn over the memos after being fired because he viewed them as personal documents. But according to The Hill, the FBI considers the memos to be government records.
It remains to be seen what implication the classifications will have for Comey. As director of the FBI, he likely would have had authority to classify or declassify documents as he saw fit. But the matter is complicated by the fact that he had possession of the documents after he left the FBI. It is also not clear whether Richman, Comey’s friend, would be in trouble for handling potentially classified records.