An article in the Washington Examiner titled Is James Comey in trouble for ‘leaking’ his own notes? quotes whistleblower lawyer Jason Zuckerman about whether Mr. Comey’s disclosures to The New York Times could land him in hot water.
The article notes that leaking government information can be punishable under the Espionage Act and other laws governing the dissemination of confidential government data or information.
Zuckerman told the Examiner that Mr. Comey had a “First Amendment right to leak information about what he reasonably perceived as unlawful conduct” by Trump, noting that there is no allegation that Mr. Comey disclosed confidential or highly sensitive information.
In addition, though Mr. Comey is not covered under the whistleblower law that protects FBI employees (because he was an appointee serving at the pleasure of the President), his disclosures would be protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act in that they entail an alleged abuse of authority.
Arguably, part of Mr. Comey’s memo is not even a government record because it documents a job interview with President Trump, not a discussion of official agency business. According to Mr. Comey’s June 8th testimony, President Trump told Mr. Comey at a private dinner at the White House on January 27th that Mr. Comey must pledge his loyalty in order to remain FBI Director. Mr. Comey also testified that at a February 14th meeting in the Oval Office, President Trump suggested to Mr. Comey that he should drop the investigation of Mr. Flynn.
According to press accounts, President Trump’s personal attorney has threated to sue Mr. Comey or file a complaint with the DOJ Office of Inspector General. This threat is troubling because it sends a signal to federal employees that blowing the whistle about fraud, waste or abuse could lead to a retaliatory investigation or liability in a civil lawsuit. Leaking classified information is unlawful and not protected under the whistleblower laws. Such leaks should be condoned because they put intelligent sources at risk and can damage U.S. national security. But lawful disclosures protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act should not punished and should not be discouraged. As Zuckerman argued in a recent article that he co-authored with Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project, Draining the Swamp Requires Robust Whistleblower Protections and Incentives.
Experienced Washington DC Whistleblower Protection Attorneys
The experienced whistleblower attorneys at leading whistleblower law firm Zuckerman Law have substantial experience representing whistleblowers disclosing fraud and other wrongdoing at government contractors and grantees. To schedule a free preliminary consultation, click here or call us at 202-262-8959.
Our experience includes:
- Representing qui tam relators in False Claims Act actions concerning off-label marketing, false billing, and education loan fraud (inflating entitlement to interest rate subsidies).
- Representing whistleblowers in NDAA retaliation claims before the Department of Defense, and Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice Offices of Inspectors General.
- Litigating False Claims Act retaliation cases.
- Representing whistleblowers disclosing fraud on the government in Congressional investigations.
- Training judges, senior Office of Inspector General officials, and federal law enforcement about whistleblower protections.
In addition, we have substantial experience representing whistleblowers under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) and enforcing the WPA, the law that the NDAA whistleblower provisions are based upon. Two of the attorneys on our team served in senior position at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel overseeing investigations of whistleblower retaliation claims and whistleblower disclosures.
- Eric Bachman served as Deputy Special Counsel, Litigation and Legal Affairs, OSC, where he spearheaded an initiative to combat whistleblower retaliation at the Department of Veterans Affairs. During Bachman’s tenure at OSC, the number of favorable actions for whistleblowers increased by over 50% agency-wide.
- Jason Zuckerman served as Senior Legal Advisor to the Special Counsel at OSC, where he worked on implementation of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act and several high-profile investigations, including a matter resulting in the removal of an Inspector General.
Before hiring a lawyer for a high-stakes whistleblower case, assess the lawyer’s reputation, prior experience representing whistleblowers, knowledge of whistleblower laws and prior results. And consider the experience of other whistleblowers working with that attorney. See our client testimonials by clicking here.
- U.S. News and Best Lawyers® have named Zuckerman Law a Tier 1 firm in Litigation – Labor and Employment in the Washington DC metropolitan area.
- Both Eric Bachman and Jason Zuckerman served on the Department of Labor’s Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the Secretary of Labor to improve OSHA’s administration of federal whistleblower protections.
- Firm Principal Jason Zuckerman was recognized by Washingtonian magazine as a “Top Whistleblower Lawyer” in 2015, 2009, and 2007 selected by his peers to be included in The Best Lawyers in America® in the category of employment law (2011-2017), and selected by his peers to be listed in SuperLawyers (2012 and 2015-2017) in the category of labor and employment law. is rated 10 out of 10 by Avvo, based largely on client reviews, and rated AV Preeminent® by Martindale-Hubbell based on peer reviews.
- Eric Bachman, Chair of the Firm’s Discrimination Practice, has substantial experience litigating precedent-setting individual and class action discrimination cases. His wins include a $100 million settlement in a disparate impact Title VII class action and a $16 million class action settlement against a major grocery chain. Having served as Special Litigation Counsel in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and as lead or co-counsel in numerous jury trials, Bachman is trial-tested and ready to fight for you to obtain the relief that you deserve.
- The firm has published extensively on whistleblower rights and protections, and speaks nationwide at seminars and continuing legal education conferences. We blog about new developments under whistleblower retaliation and rewards laws at the Whistleblower Protection Blog.
- The firm is routinely quoted in the media about whistleblower rights and protections.
Zuckerman Law has written extensively about whistleblower protections for employees of government contractors and grantees, including the following articles and blog posts:
- Boosting Contractor Employee Whistleblower Protections, Law 360 (December 2016)
- New Tools to Combat Whistleblower Retaliation, Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund Quarterly Review, Vol. 57 (October 2010)
- GAO Report Calls for Improvements in Government Contractor Whistleblower Protections
- False Claims Act Retaliation Decision Underscores Broad Scope of FCA Whistleblower Protection
- NDAA Provides Robust Whistleblower Protection
- FAR Amendment Bars Agencies from Subsidizing Whistleblower Retaliation
- NDAA Contractor Whistleblower Protection Law Highly Effective in Rooting Out Fraud
- Congress Enacts Anti-Gag Provision in Cromnibus Spending Bill
- Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Zuckerman Will Speak About False Claims Act Litigation at Taxpayers Against Fraud Conference
- Whistleblower Protections Under the Whistleblower Protection Act, Practical Law (October 2016)
- Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Zuckerman Quoted in National Law Journal
- Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Zuckerman Quoted About Federal Employee Whistleblower Rights
- Washington Post Quotes Whistleblower Attorney Jason Zuckerman About Chilling Effect of Insider Threat Program
- How to foster a more ethical culture
- Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Zuckerman Quoted About MacLean Whistleblower Protection Act Case
- Trump Questionnaire Raises Concerns About Retaliation Against Energy Department Staff
- CFPB official wants to silence a whistleblower before he can talk to Congress