Former FBI Director James Comey admitted Thursday to orchestrating leaks to the press in hopes of prompting the appointment of a special prosecutor in the FBI’s Russia probe.
Comey says he leaked news about his own memos after Trump tweeted that that Comey “better hope there’s not tapes.” pic.twitter.com/SRSsmVQtjw
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) June 8, 2017
The fired FBI director had kept written memos of his meetings with President Trump.
In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey admitted to giving his memos to his Columbia law professor “good friend” Daniel C. Richman to leak to the press following Trump’s tweets insinuating he had recorded his conversations with Comey.
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
Under oath, Comey told Sen. Susan Collins:
“The president tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I better hope there’s not tapes.
I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night cause it didn’t dawn on me originally that there might be corroboration for our conversation, and my judgement was I needed to get that out into the public square and so I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter, didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons, but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.“
The Twitter-sphere immediately cried foul after the former FBI head admitted to leaking his own memos, with some wondering whether he’d committed a criminal offense and others speculating he could have also leaked confidential info.
Did I miss something or did Comey just say he asked a friend to leak information to the press? Is this a joke?
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 8, 2017
Comey admits he had his friend leak info to the press about his memo. Wonder what other info he had his friends leak. Classified info?
— Mark Dice (@MarkDice) June 8, 2017
We learned: Comey leaked stuff to press;he was too weak to stand up to @POTUS and rolled over from pressure from AG Lynch; yes he got fired!
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) June 8, 2017
Did Comey really just admit he leaked his memo to the Press… yes he did..
— Matt Couch (@RealMattCouch) June 8, 2017
Comey leaked the oval office conversation to a friend to leak to press.
Who are the other leakers or leaker in FBI meetings.
— 0HOUR1 LLC (@__0HOUR1_) June 8, 2017
Under oath, Comey admits he LEAKED to the press there were these memos. #ComeyDay
— Kelly (@KLSouth) June 8, 2017
The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., commented the FBI director was more than willing to leak damaging info against his father, but nothing that exonerates him, as also highlighted during the hearing by Sen. Marco Rubio.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 8, 2017
In subsequent testimony to Sen. Roy Blunt, Comey claimed he believed it OK to have his memos leaked as they were his personal “recollections” as a “private citizen.”
Here’s a transcript of their exchange, via Politico:
BLUNT: You said something earlier and I don’t want to fail to follow up on, you said after dismissed, you gave information to a friend so that friend could get that information into the public media.
BLUNT: What kind of information was that? What kind of information did you give to a friend?
COMEY: That the — the Flynn conversation. The president had asked me to let the Flynn — forgetting my exact own words. But the conversation in the Oval Office.
BLUNT: So you didn’t consider your memo or your sense of that conversation to be a government document. You considered it to be, somehow, your own personal document that you could share to the media as you wanted through a friend?
COMEY: Correct. I understood this to be my recollection recorded of my conversation with the president. As a private citizen, I thought it important to get it out.
BLUNT: Were all your memos that you recorded on classified or other memos that might be yours as a private citizen?
COMEY: I’m not following the question.
BLUNT: You said you used classified —
COMEY: Not the classified documents. Unclassified. I don’t have any of them anymore. I gave them to the special counsel. My view was that the content of those unclassified, memorialization of those conversations was my recollection recorded.
BLUNT: So why didn’t you give those to somebody yourself rather than give them through a third party?
COMEY: Because I was weary the media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point. I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide. I worried it would be feeding seagulls at the beach. If it was I who gave it to the media. I asked my friend, make sure this gets out.
BLUNT: It does seem to me what you do there is create a source close to the former director of the FBI as opposed to taking responsibility yourself for saying, here are the records. Like everybody else, I have other things I’d like to get into but I’m out of time.
The Trump administration has made it known it would aggressively pursue “criminal leaks.”
“The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time,” the president noted on social media in February, at the time unaware the FBI director was leaking to the press.
The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2017
Last month, the president tweeted he had specifically asked FBI director Comey to help find leakers.
I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017
Update: President Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz issued a response to Comey’s testimony saying the former FBI director shared “unauthorized disclosures” with the press a day BEFORE Trump’s tweet, directly contradicting Comey’s remarks Thursday in which he stated he leaked the memos after the president’s tweet.
From Kasowitz’s statement, via the Los Angeles Times:
The President also never told Mr. Comey, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty” in form or substance. Of course, the Office of the President is entitled to expect loyalty from those who are serving in an administration, and, from before this President took office to this day, it is overwhelmingly clear that there have been and continue to be those in government who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications. Mr. Comey has now admitted that he is one of these leakers.
Today, Mr. Comey admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the President. The leaks of this privileged information began no later than March 2017 when friends of Mr. Comey have stated he disclosed to them the conversations he had with the President during their January 27, 2017 dinner and February 14, 2017 White House meeting. Today, Mr. Comey admitted that he leaked to friends his purported memos of these privileged conversations, one of which he testified was classified. He also testified that immediately after he was terminated he authorized his friends to leak the contents of these memos to the press in order to “prompt the appointment of a special counsel.” Although Mr. Comey testified he only leaked the memos in response to a tweet, the public record reveals that the New York Times was quoting from these memos the day before the referenced tweet, which belies Mr. Comey’s excuse for this unauthorized disclosure of privileged information and appears to entirely retaliatory. We will leave it the appropriate authorities to determine whether this leaks should be investigated along with all those others being investigated.
In sum, it is now established that the President was not being investigated for colluding with the Russians or attempting to obstruct that investigation. As the Committee pointed out today, these important facts for the country to know are virtually the only facts that have not leaked during the long course of these events.