There has been a reported falling out between U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller and ex-FBI Chief James Comey in recent weeks which leaves Comey potentially vulnerable to possible criminal charges, according to Justice Department and FBI sources.
The stakes have changed in the sweeping Russia collusion investigation that has spread far beyond the 2016 presidential election timeline.
Any immunity agreement that was previously on the table protecting Comey is now off the table, according to multiple DOJ sources. For months since he was fired by President Donald Trump in June, Comey has been testifying and acting like a major D.C. player with little to worry about.
But at some point in recent weeks, that has changed based on new information about Comey’s tenure at FBI which has been uncovered during Mueller’s probe, sources said.
Perhaps this is one reason why Comey has taken to social media to quote scripture and post nature pictures, including one photo of him standing alone amid corn stalks in a field during a sunset in Iowa.
A high-ranking DOJ veteran in June said they were confident Mueller has granted a complete get-out-of-jail-free-card deal for Comey: a coveted immunity deal in exchange for cooperating as a key witness.
Now, however, that official and others say there has been a seismic shift that dissolved any agreements between the two former FBI directors. And it appears Comey has shared this development with his inner circle as well, sources confirmed.
Lawyers for the Justice Department may rescind any immunity agreement if circumstances in a case change after the agreement is negotiated.
As Special Counsel, by law Mueller is permitted to strike immunity agreements without having to get approval for the Attorney General of anyone at Justice. Also he is not obligated as Special Counsel to inform Justice about who is under immunity.
It’s no secret Comey and Mueller are close friends, having worked together at Justice for years alongside Eric Holder. Comey has described Mueller, who also served as FBI director, as his one-time mentor. If someone in Congress cared enough to do something about it, there are no shortages of conflicts of interests at play here in what is supposed to be an impartial investigation.
These underlying facts makes the apparent recent separation between the two D.C. heavyweights a major development.
A complete review of this case illustrates that by striking an early immunity deal Comey had essentially used the Washington D.C. system and his connections to insulate himself from any felony criminal charges, including whether he participated in the illegal unmasking of Trump or any other Americans during the election based on FISA court-ordered wiretaps or whether he played a role covering up crimes committed by Hillary Clinton.
But now, Comey is back in the mix as a potential suspect — in a number of unfolding cases — absent a special protection deal.
A refresher on the summer’s events regarding the previous immunity deal.
First, Comey himself leaked at least one memo that actually sparked the Justice Department to appoint a Special Counsel. Then, from a pool of countless candidates to serve as Special Counsel, Mueller — a close friend and long-time mentor of Comey — just happened to get picked.Then, an early immunity deal was apparently struck which allowed Comey to speak carefree at his Senate hearings and beyond.
Comey’s previous deal insulated him against prosecution for his role in many controversial FBI cases and emerging scandals. However, absent a deal protecting him from Mueller’s team or a grand jury, Comey could be implicated in a number of growing probes, including:
- Leaking other government documents to third parties including the media
- Inconsistencies in testimony that rise to the level or perjury
- Any role he played in the illegal surveillance or wiretapping of Trump during the election
- Any other crimes Comey may have committed during his tenure as FBI director, including his role in quashing the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
- His role in unmasking Trump, Trump insiders and other Americans from FISA warrant intelligence
- Any violations of FBI employment ethics that would nullify pension benefits.
- Uranium One.
- Legal spillover from the investigations targeting FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
- Other cases which have not been made public.