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Trump accuses James Comey of leaking classified information to media

James Comey
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James Comey

Two days after returning from an international summit, President Trump kicked off his week back in Washington by renewing his attack on the FBI director he fired in the midst of the Russia investigation – this time, accusing him of leaking classified information to the press.

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

However, Comey has discussed the content of his memos publicly during congressional testimony and addressed the general sensitivity with which he treated their contents.

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In an earlier post, Trump, who returned to the White House late Saturday after the G-20 summit in Germany, tweeted a Fox News report that appears to be based on a story in The Hill newspaper. Citing anonymous sources, The Hill reported that "more than half of the memos former FBI chief James Comey wrote as personal recollections of his conversations with President Trump about the Russia investigation have been determined to contain classified information."

Comey, whom Trump abruptly fired in early May, said he prepared contemporaneous memos based on his conversations with Trump out of what concern the president might misrepresent the substance of their conversations. The memos included the former FBI director's descriptions of a meeting in which Trump pressed him to drop the inquiry into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and another in which he asked for a pledge of personal loyalty.

In testimony on June 8, Comey addressed the subject of classification. "I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership," Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee, adding that he and aides "decided to keep it very closely held."

While Comey did acknowledge in his testimony he shared notes with Columbia University professor to leak to the press, it's not clear that the former FBI director directed the release of any classified material. Trump also declined to assert executive privilege to challenge Comey's testimony on the Hill, even after media reports cited Comey's notes.

What's more, the memos themselves have still not been released publicly. Even members of Congress with access to classified intelligence had to fight to obtain the actual notes.

On June 28, weeks after Comey's testimony, Senate Intelligence Committee leadership said the panel finally secured "a commitment'' for the delivery of the documents, which were provided to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is running the Justice Department's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians who hacked to Democrats during last year's presidential campaign.

In congressional testimony, Comey said he believes Trump fired him because he resisted the president's request that he "let this go" regarding an investigation into former Michael Flynn and his contacts with the U.S. ambassador to Russia.

On Monday morning, Trump also retweeted former U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who said Comey's handling of his memos "raised a lot of eyebrows.""