Comey documented conversations with Trump in unclassified memos
Former FBI Director James Comey revealed that he created contemporaneous memos detailing all his conversations with President Donald Trump because he feared “there might come a day” when he’ll need the written records to defend the integrity and independence of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey said the circumstances, the subject matter, and Trump’s character led him to create a paper trail documenting his conversations with the president.
“Circumstances, first, I was alone with the president of the United States or the president-elect, soon-to-be president. The subject matter, I was talking about matters that touch on the FBI’s core responsibility and that relate to the president-elect personally. And then the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so I thought it really important to document it,” explained Comey, who prosecuted high-profile criminal cases against Mafia boss John Gambino and Martha Stewart prior to serving as FBI Director.
Comey made a point of writing his memos so they could be shared in an unclassified setting following “disturbing” conversations with Trump, who demanded a loyalty pledge from Comey and tried to pressure the FBI to drop its criminal investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s ties with the Russian government.
“I remember thinking this is a very disturbing development really important to our work. I need to document it and preserve it in a way and this committee gets this. But sometimes when things are classified, it tangles them up,” said Comey. “So my thinking was if I write it in such a way that don’t include anything that would trigger a classification, that will make it easier for us to discuss within the FBI and the government and to hold on to it in a way that makes it accessible to us.”
Comey said he decided to ask a friend to disclose contents of his memos to the press after Trump claimed on Twitter that their conversations were taped.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Trump tweeted a few days after Comey was fired.
“I’m not going to sit here and try to interpret the president’s tweets. To me, its major impact – as I said, it occurred to me in the middle of the night, ‘Holy cow, there might be tapes’,” said Comey. “And if there are tapes, it’s not just my word against his on the direction to get rid of the Flynn investigation.”
“The appointment of a Special Counsel should offer, especially given who that person is, great comfort to Americans, no matter what your political affiliation is that this will be done independently, competently, and honestly,” said Comey.
Comey, who turned over the memos to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, defended his decision to disclose the memos’ contents to the press.
“I understood this to be my recollection recorded of my conversation with the president. As a private citizen, I felt free to share that,” said Comey. “I thought it very important to get it out.