President Trump’s lawyer did more than just release a statement clearly intended to hoist James Comey by his own petard. He now intends to file a complaint with the Department of Justice because Comey leaked memos detailing private, sensitive conversations with the President.
Attorney Marc Kasowitz swiftly responded to Comey’s testimony yesterday at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. Under oath, Comey stated that Trump demanded his loyalty at a private dinner meeting in January, and he explained that he took detailed notes of the encounter because he was worried the President would lie about their conversation. He admitted to leaking some of these memos to a friend, Columbia law professor Daniel Richman, in hopes this would lead to a special counsel being appointed to investigate Trump.
Kasowitz asserted that Comey’s actions were motivated by revenge and intended to “undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information.” Now he wants the Justice Department to look into just how illegal Comey’s leak might have been.
Comey, of course, has a somewhat complicated history with the Justice Department. Part of his testimony yesterday concerned conversations with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch about Comey’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, and his discomfort with Lynch’s insistence that the probe be downplayed in the media as a “matter” of inquiry. He also touched on current Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ self-recusal from the Russia probe, noting that “we also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make [Sessions’] continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation ‘problematic.'”
In response to Kasowitz’s DOJ filing claim, Obama’s Ethics Czar and Brookings fellow Norm Eisen indicated he would be filing Comey’s defense, along with George Bush’s former ethics lawyer Richard W. Painter, and Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe.
Eisen had strong words for Kasowitz, warning him of the dangerous ground he could be stepping into if he uses “scorched earth litigating style of private law practice” and abuses legal process. He also ridiculed the President himself: “It is an honor to defend the Constitution and human decency, both of which Trump (& those around him) disdain.
NBC’s Justice and Security Analyst Matthew Miller parsed Kasowitz’s maneuver as a “frivolous distraction” and pointed out that because Comey wasn’t acting as a lawyer in his interactions with the President, their conversations weren’t protected.
Bloomberg’s Senior White House Correspondent Margaret Talev spoke with Norm Eisen about the case, and he indicated that Kasowitz’s filing could be interpreted as obstruction of justice.
That’s bad news for Trump, whose actions according to Comey’s memos and testimony could be construed as obstruction of justice if he was indeed trying to prevent Comey from investigating Michael Flynn. Kasowitz doing anything that even has a hint of obstruction only calls further attention to Trump’s intimidating behavior.
Going after Comey for leaks also highlights administrative hypocrisy given that the President himself was recently reprimanded for leaking classified information in such a way that it compromised delicate intelligence networks. It wasn’t the first time concerns were raised about whether or not President Trump could be trusted to handle classified intelligence discreetly.