Comey leaked Trump meeting memos to prompt naming of special prosecutor
Fired FBI director James Comey admitted Thursday he leaked his personal notes on his meetings with President Donald Trump in hopes it would prompt the naming of a special prosecutor to lead the Russia probe.
Comey’s decision to go public came in the days after his May 9 sacking by Trump amid rising tensions over the FBI’s probe into Russia’s attempt to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.
The former director told the Senate Intelligence Committee it was set off by Trump’s tweet on May 12 warning that Comey had “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversation before he starts leaking to the press.”
“I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night, because it didn’t dawn on me originally, there might be corroboration, a tape,” he said.
“And my judgment was I need to get that out into the public square.”
So he turned to a friend, a professor at Columbia Law School, and asked him to share his written recollection of those conversations with a reporter.
“I didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons,” Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“But I asked him to, because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”
Democrats had called for a special prosecutor to take over the Russia probe from the Justice Department, and those calls grew after Comey’s shock firing.
On May 16, The New York Times published a report based on the Comey memo, and the following day, former FBI director Robert Mueller was named special counsel to take over the investigation.
Comey explained that he didn’t release the memos himself because, with the press camped outside his house, “I worried it would be feeding seagulls at the beach.”
Comey began taking detailed notes of his interactions with Trump after a one-on-one White House dinner January 27 in which the president pressed Comey on his need for loyalty.
“I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting, so I thought it really important to document,” Comey said.
Asked about Trump’s tweet, Comey said, “I’ve seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”