Federal prosecutors investigating a years-old leak of classified information about a Russian intelligence document appear to be focusing on whether former FBI director James Comey illegally provided details to reporters, reports the New York Times. It is the second time the Justice Department has investigated leaks potentially involving Comey, a frequent target of President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called him a “leaker.” Trump recently suggested that Comey should be prosecuted for “unlawful conduct” and spend years in prison.
The timing of the investigation could raise questions about whether it was motivated by politics. Prosecutors and FBI agents typically investigate leaks of classified information around the time they appear in the news media, not years later. The U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., also is conducting an investigation of Comey’s former deputy, Andrew McCabe, that has been plagued by problems. Law enforcement officials are scrutinizing at least two news articles about the FBI and Comey, in the New York Times and Washington Post in 2017, that mentioned the Russian government document. Hackers working for Dutch intelligence officials obtained the document and provided it to the FBI, and both its existence and the collection of it were highly classified secrets. The document played a key role in Comey’s decision to announce in July 2016 that the FBI would not recommend that Hillary Clinton face charges in her use of a private email server to conduct government business while secretary of state. The new investigation involves material that Dutch intelligence operatives siphoned off Russian computers and provided to the United States government.