“Make sure this gets out,” former FBI Director James Comey told a close friend, a Columbia Law School professor, as he gave him copies of his memos detailing his one-on-one interactions with President Trump, according to Comey’s Thursday morning testimony before the Senate intelligence committee.
Comey believed the publication of the memos might prompt the appointment of a special prosecutor to pursue the investigation into Russian penetration of the American political system and contacts with the Trump campaign. The memos were Comey’s own accounts of his conversations with Trump in the months before the president fired him as head of the bureau.
The friend, Daniel Richman, who did not respond to Yahoo News’ request for comment, confirmed to CNN that he shared Comey’s memos with the press. Richman’s biography states that he is an adviser to Comey.
Related slideshow: James Comey testifies at Senate hearing >>>
“I needed to get [the memos] out into the public square,” Comey said in response to questioning from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) about whether he had shown the memos to anyone outside the Department of Justice.
After Comey’s May 9 firing, the president tweeted that “Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
The White House has refused to say whether such tapes actually exist. But hours after Trump’s tweet, Comey testified, he awakened in the middle of the night with the thought he needed to get his version of events before the public and made plans to release the memos.
“Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey said Thursday, in the expectation that they could corroborate his own recollections.
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Comey said he asked his friend to share details of a conversation in the Oval Office during which Trump said he hoped Comey would “let go” of an investigation into Michael Flynn, who had resigned as the president’s national security adviser the previous day.
A seven-page opening statement prepared by Comey for his testimony and released the day before describes a conversation with Trump in the Oval Office on Feb. 14, when the president told him: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Comey said during testimony that he decided to document the exchanges due to the circumstances, subject matter and the nature of the person with whom he was interacting — a combination of factors that Comey hadn’t experienced before in his interactions with a president but that led him to create a meticulous record.
“I was honestly concerned that [Trump] might lie about the nature of our meeting,” Comey said.
On May 16, the New York Times broke the contents of the memo detailing the Feb. 14 conversation.
Comey said he refrained from leaking the memos himself because he was under intense press scrutiny and was “worried it’d be like feeding seagulls at the beach if I gave it out personally.”
When Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) asked whether Comey believed the memos were government documents, Comey replied no, noting that they were “unclassified, memorializations of … conversations.”
“[It was] my recollection, recorded, of my conversation with the president. As a private citizen, I felt free to share that,” Comey said. “I thought it very important to get it out.”
Comey has turned his copies of the memos over to special counsel Robert Mueller. He said that he is unsure whether his friend who shared the memos with the press still has the documents.
Read more from Yahoo News:
- What to watch for in James Comey’s testimony
- From ‘great respect’ to ‘nut job’: A year in the lives of James Comey and Donald Trump
- Tom Perriello needs more than disgust with Trump to win Virginia
- Democrats to drill down on Trump obstruction in Comey hearing
- Photos: James Comey testifies at Senate hearing