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Top Democrats Ask Who at DOJ Improperly Tried to Classify Official’s Handwritten Notes on President Trump’s Call to Comey—And Why

Apr 12, 2018
Press Release

Top Democrats Ask Who at DOJ Improperly

Tried to Classify Official’s Handwritten Notes on

President Trump’s Call to Comey—And Why

 

Washington, D.C. (Apr. 12, 2018)—Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein requesting documents relating to a report that someone at the Department of Justice (DOJ) attempted to improperly classify a key document relating to the Russia investigation.

On Tuesday, Rachel Maddow revealed that MSNBC has obtained handwritten notes taken on March 30, 2017, by Dana Boente, who served in several top positions at the Department of Justice, memorializing a telephone conversation he had that day with FBI Director James Comey.  These notes relate to a troubling conversation Director Comey had with President Donald Trump, who urged him to lift the “cloud” of the Russia investigation and “to get out” that the President was not under criminal investigation.

“Although President Trump has called Director Comey a liar, these contemporaneous notes offer direct and potent corroboration of Director Comey’s testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on June 8, 2017, that President Trump asked him to ‘lift the cloud’ of the Russia investigation and ‘to get it out’ that the President was not under investigation,” Cummings and Lynch wrote.

Rachel Maddow also obtained a letter sent to Mr. Boente on January 17, 2018, from E.W. Priestap, the Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division of the FBI, indicating that someone at the Department of Justice appears to have improperly tried to classify Mr. Boente’s notes—without ever consulting him—despite the fact that there was no classified information contained within them.  The letter states:

“(U)  This letter serves as confirmation under my authority as a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Original Classification Authority (OCA) that your handwritten notes derived from your March 30, 2017 conversation with former FBI Director James Comey are UNCLASSIFIED.

“(U)  Understanding that your notes were marked as TOP SECRET by an employee of the Department of Justice without your consultation, this letter memorializes a duly authorized OCA finding that the contents of your notes are not TOP SECRET (or classified at all).”

“It is unclear why anyone at the Department of Justice improperly sought to classify these notes,” Cummings and Lynch wrote.  “However, if these reports are accurate, it appears possible that someone at the Department of Justice may have attempted to prevent the public release of these notes by misusing the classification process, but that career officials at the FBI intervened to reject this effort.”

Under Executive Order 13526, Classified National Security Information, officials may not abuse the classification process to conceal information that may be incriminating:

“In no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to: (1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error; (2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency; (3) restrain competition; or (4) prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of national security.”

Click here to read the letter.  

115th Congress