Former FBI Director James Comey used a private email account to conduct official FBI business on multiple occasions, a newly released report by the Department of Justice’s inspector general reveals.
Comey would forward unclassified emails from his official FBI.gov email account address to his Gmail account.
The former FBI director was questioned by the IG during the course of the investigation on the use of the private email account.
Government policy requires official business to be conducted using government email accounts, both for record-keeping and safety.
Comey told the IG that he did not have access to a working unclassified FBI connection at his home and had not bothered to fix it.
Instead, he would use his personal or business phone, or his personal laptop, to write documents related to official FBI business, and then forward them to his official FBI account using the private email account.
“I was always making sure that the work got forwarded to the government account to either my own account or [former chief of staff Jim] Rybicki, so I wasn’t worried from a record-keeping perspective and it was, because there will always be a copy of it in the FBI system and I wasn’t doing classified work there, so I wasn’t concerned about that,” Comey told the IG.
In separate testimony to the IG, Rybicki confirmed that Comey had sent unclassified emails from his official FBI.gov email account to his Gmail account.
“This permits him to open attachments and use his personal laptop to then work on a speech or other content intended for wide dissemination,” Rybicki said. “He then sends drafts or the completed text to his official FBI.gov email account or to another FBI.gov email account from [his Gmail account].”
According to the former chief of staff, Comey had opened the account around the time when he was appointed director and had not sought or received advice from the DOJ on the use of these accounts.
“To ensure a high level of cybersecurity, Director Comey routinely deletes all emails from his [Gmail] account each day, and then clears the deleted messages folder. He began this practice about two years ago,” Rybicki said.
The IG report states that Comey’s use of the private email account to conduct official government business is “inconsistent with the DOJ Policy Statement.”
It is unclear whether the DOJ will pursue charges against Comey over his use of the private email account.
This is not the first time that Comey has been in hot water over his handling of sensitive information.
Last June, Comey acknowledged under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had intentionally leaked memos written about his conversations with President Donald Trump to a friend, with the intention of having them leaked to The New York Times.
Several of the memos had been classified and marked as secret at the time.