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Trump Accused Comey Of Leaking Classified Information After A False Report On Fox News

The president accused the former FBI director of leaking "classified information" after a misleading Fox News report. A network host later said, "we were mistaken in that."

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Updated on

President Trump on Monday launched an early morning tweetstorm, accusing former FBI director James Comey of leaking classified information to the media.

Twitter / Via Twitter: @realDonaldTrump

"James Comey leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media. That is so illegal!" the president tweeted early Monday.

The tweet came just moments after a misleading segment aired on the Fox News morning show Fox and Friends that reported Comey had leaked classified information to the news media and put national security at risk.

Report accuses material James Comey leaked to a friend contained top secret information

Trump retweeted the Fox and Friends video before following with his comment. The Fox report referenced an article published Sunday in The Hill that cited “officials familiar with the documents" who stated some of Comey's memos about his interactions with President Trump included classified information.

"It turns out, he may actually have broken the rules," Fox News anchor Jillian Mele said. "A brand-new bombshell report accuses Comey of putting our national security at risk. According to The Hill, the former FBI director’s personal memos detailing private conversations with President Trump contained top-secret information."

But The Hill did not report Comey had leaked anything classified. The article stated Comey had written seven memos regarding nine conversations he had with the president. Of the seven memos, four were marked classified.

Trump fired Comey in May and almost immediately began threatening him against leaking information.

James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

In one tweet, Trump threatened to release secret tapes of his conversations with Comey. More than a month later, the president admitted that he had not made any tapes.

Not long after being fired, Comey did leak a memo — one of several he kept about his conversations with the president.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, left, and Susan Walsh, File

The New York Times on May 16 revealed the existence of the memos and published a summary of a Feb. 14 memo's contents: that Trump asked Comey to "let go" of the FBI's investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The Feb. 14 memo was unclassified, the New York Times reported at the time.

Questions about the memos and Comey's interactions with Trump prompted the Senate Intelligence Committee to call Comey to testify on June 8.

Alex Brandon / AP

Comey testified publicly, as well as in a closed session to allow senators to ask questions about classified matters.

In his public testimony, Comey said he made sure to write the Feb. 14 memo in a way that it would not be classified because he believed Trump's statement regarding the Flynn investigation was a "disturbing development."

"So my thinking was, if I write it in such a way that I don’t include anything that would trigger a classification, that’ll make it easier for us to discuss, within the FBI and the government, and to — to hold on to it in a way that makes it accessible to us," Comey said.

He added that other memos contained classified information; one, for example, related to a conversation about an ongoing intelligence investigation.

The Feb. 14 memo was also unclassified, according to Daniel Richman, the Columbia Law School professor who provided it to the Times on behalf of Comey.

Columbia University / Via law.columbia.edu

Richman told ABC News on Monday that he never saw any of the classified memos.

"No [Comey] memos given to me had any classified markings," Richman told ABC.

The FBI declined to release the memos to BuzzFeed News — including one that is unclassified — citing their potential to become part of law enforcement proceedings.

A document's potential impact on law enforcement proceedings is one of several reasons a federal agency may decline to release records. It may also deny the release of records because they are classified — which the FBI did not specifically do in this case.

The New York Times and CNN have filed lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the memos.

Some of the memos appear to have been classified retroactively, Politico reported on Monday.

Andrew Harnik / AP

But at least one memo remains unclassified — and it's not known if the memo Comey leaked has had any classification added to it.

"[A] source with knowledge of the memos said several of them appear to have been 'retroactively classified,' and it's unclear whether any of those details were shared with anyone without a proper clearance," Politico reported.

Hours later, Fox News said the network would address its misleading report on Tuesday morning.

Fox News

“This will be addressed tomorrow morning," a network spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Then, Fox and Friends issued a correction on Twitter for referring to some of the memos as "top secret."

Correction: Comey's memos did not have top secret info. The report says half were classified at secret or confidential level, not top secret

They were not classified as top secret, the correction said, but rather secret or confidential.

On Tuesday morning, Fox and Friends made a similar statement on air, adding that it was not known whether the memo Comey leaked was actually classified.

"We were mistaken in that. According to a report, half the memos contained information classified at the secret or confidential level, not top secret. And the marking of the documents Mr. Comey leaked at this point are unclear. Just wanted to straighten that out," host Steve Doocy said.

The White House did not respond to questions about whether Trump would also rescind his statement.

Evan Vucci / AP

As of Tuesday, the tweet accusing Comey of a crime remained up, and Trump had offered no new thoughts on the matter.

The White House and the president have repeatedly said his tweets should be considered official statements.

Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Claudia Koerner at claudia.koerner@buzzfeed.com.

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