President Donald Trump’s personal defense lawyer threatened Friday to file legal complaints against former FBI Director James Comey, over Comey’s decision to give his longtime friend copies of the notes he wrote after his meetings with Trump.
The lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, intends to file a complaint with the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, and send a formal letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to multiple news outlets. The timing of any such complaints is unclear, but CNN reports that Trump’s legal team is “actively exploring their options.”
But according to legal experts, filing a complaint against Comey to the Justice Department, his former employer, after he was already fired is effectively pointless. Likewise, it is unclear if a formal letter of complaint to the Senate Judiciary Committee would result in any meaningful action, either.
Kasowitz’s complaints center on Comey’s admission that he gave his friend, Columbia Law School professor Daniel Richman, copies of memos he wrote after each of his conversations with the president, and asked Richman to give them to a reporter.
Trump’s lawyer claimed Thursday that the memos are somehow “privileged,” but he did not explain what he meant by that. The memos were not classified, and Trump did not invoke executive privilege to prevent Comey from disclosing what the two men discussed.
On the contrary, Trump tweeted last month that Comey had better hope there were no “tapes” of their conversations. In response to this veiled threat, Comey said Thursday, “my judgment was I needed to get [the memos] out into the public square. So, I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter.”
Following the reports Friday about a potential legal complaint against Comey, Norm Eisen, who was White House ethics czar under President Barack Obama, said he is prepared to formally defend the fired FBI director, should Kasowitz follow through on his threat.
“This is an abuse of process, and we will be filing a defense of Comey,” Eisen wrote on Twitter Friday morning. Addressing Kasowitz by his Twitter handle Eisen added, “Beware: there are serious consequences for abuse of process.”
While the DOJ could hypothetically investigate a complaint to the Inspector General, it has very limited jurisdiction over people who don’t work there anymore. And the Judiciary Committee does not have jurisdiction to investigate a private citizen’s decision to give unclassified material that he wrote to another private citizen.
Still, threatening legal action against his perceived enemies has long been one of Trump’s signature moves, both in real estate and politics. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump threatened to sue The Washington Post, the Louisiana Republican Party, The New York Times and at least four women who accused him of sexual misconduct. Trump and his lawyers never followed through on any of these threats.
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