Could James Comey have broken the law? In a day dedicated to obsessive, live coverage of Jeff Sessions testifying about the Russian investigation, two journalists at CBS on Tuesday actually circled back to a potentially big problem for Comey and his liberal defenders: Whether or not he broke the law by leaking a memo to the media.
Regarding the leaking, legal correspondent Jan Crawford speculated, “Is that lawful? Arguably that's a government document. He wrote it on a government computer and a government vehicle. There is an open legal question about whether or not pure information is considered property.”
She demanded, “There is an argument that that memo is government property and he had no business giving it to a law professor to leak to the press. Certainly, it raises questions of whether it was inappropriate.”
CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley insisted, “There's been a lot of discussion about whether [leaking the memo] was legal or not.”
The ethical actions of Comey haven’t got much attention from the networks. On June 8, the day the ex-FBI director testified, ABC omitted his questionable dealings with Loretta Lynch. CBS and NBC accepted her explanation.
Over on CNN, John King on the same day explained how journalists wouldn’t be interested in Lynch wanting the Clinton e-mail drama be called a “matter” and not an investigation.
A transcript is below:
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CBS live coverage
SCOTT PELLEY: Jeff Sessions, of course, the senator from Alabama, one of the first members of the Senate to endorse the Trump campaign, and therefore he was rewarded later with the position of Attorney General. And he may be thinking twice today about whether that was a reward or not. Jan, one of the things that Jeff just mentioned and is likely to come up today is the fact that James Comey acknowledged freely that he leaked his personal memos that he wrote to himself about his meetings with President Trump to the media and there's been a lot of discussion about whether that was legal or not.
JAN CRAWFORD: Right. And I'm sure that people will bring that up and whether or not the Attorney General believes that his former FBI director broke the law when he took notes of that meeting and then turned them over to a law professor at Columbia University with the intent that he would then disperse them to the media.
I mean, is that lawful? Arguably that's a government document. He wrote it on a government computer and a government vehicle. There is an open legal question about whether or not pure information is considered property. But there is an argument that that memo is government property and he had no business giving it to a law professor to leak to the press. Certainly, it raises questions of whether it was inappropriate.
PELLEY: But there is no question about whether there was classified information in those documents. There was none, and therefore —
CRAWFORD: Well, certainly the former FBI director says it was not classified. I mean, that's another question. Did he ask for it to be reviewed, a classification review before he turned it over to the law professor?