President Donald Trump sent out a tweet this morning accusing former FBI Director James Comey of leaking classified information when he released a memo of a meeting between himself and the president.
Unfortunately for Trump, his sources for his accusation aren’t exactly scrupulous, and they include information that simplifies a much more complicated scenario.
As Philip Bump at the Washington Post points out, Trump took info from his favorite morning news show, FOX and Friends, and blasted it out to his Twitter audience, without understanding that the FOX and Friends broadcast itself took information from an opinion piece at the Hill without understanding the information held within it.
Trump first retweeted the FOX and Friends report, below:
Report accuses material James Comey leaked to a friend contained top secret information pic.twitter.com/Hkg4cAb6o9
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) July 10, 2017
Apparently not able to recognize the word “accuses,” Trump then sent a tweet that suggested he believes Comey indeed leaked out classified material, and stated that Comey’s actions were “so illegal!”
James Comey leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media. That is so illegal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2017
The original FOX and Friends report said, “According to the Hill, the former FBI director’s personal memos…contained top-secret information.”
That part is true, the Washington Post report says. However, the memo in question — the one that Comey arranged to be leaked — did not contain classified information. As a whole, the entirety of the memos Comey released to Congress are classified. But of the nine memos Comey shared with Congress, three of them did not contain classified info, including the memo detailing the events of the meeting between Comey and Trump in which the president pressed Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn.
Put another way, Trump is disseminating Fake News. The Hill report states that some information in the Comey memos are classified. If Comey had released all nine memos, he would have committed a crime, as Trump suggests in his tweet. But Comey didn’t release all nine memos — he instructed a friend to leak one memo, which did not contain classified material, contrary to the assertions by Trump and FOX.