James Comey told a Senate committee on Thursday he was behind the leak of a memo he wrote that said President Donald Trump asked him to stem the FBI’s investigation to former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The account appeared in The New York Times in May, days after the president fired Comey as FBI director.
Speaking before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Comey testified that after Trump tweeted about the possible existence of “tapes” of their conversations, he “woke up in the middle of the night” and realized he might be able to use memos he had recorded to share his version of events. “My judgement was, I need to get that out in the public square,” he said. He added that he provided the memo to a friend who is a Columbia University professor.
Comey did not name the friend, but Columbia Law School professor Daniel Richman reportedly confirmed he is that person to the Financial Times and CNN. In an email to Newsweek, he declined to comment.
Richman’s faculty webpage says he is “currently an adviser to FBI Director James B. Comey.” The New York Times previously quoted Richman in multiple articles about the former FBI director, around the same time the newspaper published the Flynn article. A New Yorker article in May quoted him and described him as Comey’s “unofficial media surrogate.”
The professor is a former federal prosecutor and served as chief appellate attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, where Comey also worked. He has also been a consultant to the Department of Justice and the Department of the Treasury.
Comey went on to testify that because the memos were unclassified and he felt they were his personal recollections of events, he believed he was in a position to share them. He decided to provide the Flynn memo to a reporter through a third party instead of directly, he said, because “I was worried it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach.”
Republicans on congressional committees investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election have seemed especially concerned with leaks to the press. And other people on the right have already called attention to the Columbia detail. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “Did I miss something or did Comey just say he asked a friend to leak information to the press? Is this a joke?”
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