During his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, former FBI director James Comey recalled that he told a friend, “Make sure this gets out,” in reference to copies of memoranda he wrote that detailed his private conversations with President Donald Trump at the White House. The friend, who Comey identified as a Columbia Law School professor, gave the memoranda to the press, thus fueling speculation about their bearing on the ongoing investigations into possible Russian interference with the 2016 general election.
CNN has confirmed that it was Daniel Richman who was Comey’s friend who distributed the memoranda. Comey hoped that by publishing the memos that the appointment of a special prosecutor might ensue to pursue the investigation into Russian penetration of the US political system and contacts with the Trump campaign. Comey wrote the memos after his private meetings with Trump, before he was fired as head of the FBI.
In a response to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Comey recalled, “I needed to get [the memos] out into the public square,” when he was asked if anyone outside of the Department of Justice had received the report.
President Trump, after Comey’s firing on May 9, tweeted that “Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Comey testified today that he woke up “in the middle of the night” thinking that he needed to release the memos to the public. “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey said on Thursday.
Comey said he asked his "friend" to share details of an Oval Office conversation in which Trump allegedly asked Comey to “let go” of an investigation into Michael Flynn, the presidential national security adviser who had resigned on the previous day.
Comey’s seven-page opening statement was released before the hearing and describes a Feb. 14 conversation with Trump in which 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 said that a combination of factors he had not experienced before led him to write the memos about his conversations with Trump. “I was honestly concerned that [Trump] might lie about the nature of our meeting,” Comey said.
The New York Times reported on May 16 the contents of Comey’s memo of the Feb. 14 conversation. Comey said he chose ask a third party to leak the memos because he was under intense press scrutiny. He was “worried it’d be like feeding seagulls at the beach if I gave it out personally.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) asked whether Comey believed his memos were government property. Comey said no, claiming that they are “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 surrendered his copies of the memos to special counsel Robert Mueller. He said he is not certain whether his friend has retained copies.