By Catherine Herridge
The Columbia law professor James Comey used as an intermediary to help leak details of sensitive memos worked as an FBI “special government employee” for at least 19 months – during which time he repeatedly defended the FBI director in media interviews amid the Hillary Clinton email probe.
Fox News first reported last week that Daniel Richman was hired as a “special government employee,” or SGE. Records reviewed by Fox News now show he signed the agreement as early as June 30, 2015. The former director previously told Fox News that Richman left the FBI in February 2017, meaning he served there for well over a year.
Sources familiar with Richman’s FBI status said he was assigned to “special projects” by Comey, and had a security clearance as well as badge access to the building. Richman told Fox News in an email last week that he was working as an SGE on an unpaid basis.
FBI records show that as a special government employee, Richman would “serve at the pleasure of the Director [Comey],” with an initial term of one year. Richman’s stated responsibilities included the use of encryption by terror suspects — known as “Going Dark.” In August 2015, his projects were expanded to include “an examination of the implications of federal investigations being brought to state and local prosecutors.”
During this time, a review of media reports between July 2015 and February 2017 shows Richman gave multiple interviews defending Comey’s handling of the Clinton email case, including the controversial decision to reopen the probe shortly before the presidential election. He was typically identified as a law professor, and sometimes as a policy adviser to Comey.
Government transcripts indicate Richman was sent talking points about the FBI’s handling of the Clinton investigation. Those talking points attempted to compare and contrast Clinton’s use of an unsecured personal server exclusively for government business with the case of retired Gen. David Petraeus, who shared classified information with his biographer and mistress Paula Broadwell, as well as the case brought against the late Sandy Berger. The former national security adviser under President Clinton pleaded guilty to the unauthorized removal and retention of classified material from the National Archives.
Since Richman’s time at the bureau, Republican lawmakers have taken interest in his role – specifically in helping Comey leak the contents of at least one memo documenting his private discussions with President Trump to the media, after Richman left the bureau. Richman first emerged last year during Senate testimony as the former FBI director’s contact for getting that information out to the media, to kick-start the Russia special counsel investigation.
The Comey memos are now the subject of an inspector general review over the presence of classified material.
Incidentally, another “special government employee” who has come under scrutiny was Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, among others, previously questioned Abedin’s special status that allowed her to work at the Clinton State Department and private-sector entities at the same time.
In an email, Fox News asked Richman a series of questions about his work for Comey as an SGE, including if he worked unpaid between June 2015 and February 2017, and if he engaged with the media about the Clinton email case or other bureau matters at the request of FBI personnel including Comey.
Fox News also asked whether Richman volunteered to media outlets that he was working for Comey as a special government employee when he gave interviews about the Clinton probe. Richman did not respond Wednesday to the email questions. The FBI also has not responded to questions submitted Wednesday by Fox News.
During his Senate Intelligence Committee testimony in June 2017, after his firing, Comey did not volunteer that Richman was also an FBI employee. During a recent interview on Fox News, Comey said “it wasn’t relevant” because Richman left the FBI in February 2017. Comey said he had no other special government employees, and Richman’s job dealt with terrorist communications as well as law enforcement data.
The leaders of the House judiciary and oversight committees, meanwhile, are asking the Justice Department to turn over documents about Richman’s FBI status and his handling of the memos.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., made the request in a letter on Tuesday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Comey’s lawyers — former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and David Kelly — also got some of the memos, but Comey maintains they were returned once classified information was identified.
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.