During his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey revealed that he had asked a friend, identified by Reuters as Columbia law professor Daniel C. Richman, to leak the contents of memos documenting his interactions with Trump.
“I asked a friend of mine to share the content of a memo with the reporter,” Comey said. “I 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.”
Comey said he handed over the memos days after the president suggested on Twitter he has secret recordings of Oval Office conversations.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” read Trump’s tweet on May 12.
“The President tweeted on Friday, after I got fired, that I better hope there’s not tapes,” Comey said. “I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night, because it didn’t dawn on me originally, that there might be corroboration for our conversation, there might be a tape.”
Comey testified before a Senate committee hearing on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Trump ‘lied’ about reasons for firing Comey
Comey’s highly anticipated public hearing led to a number of explosive statements about his relationship with Trump and the circumstances that led to his firing.
The former FBI chief said Trump told lies to the American people about why he was fired as the director of the FBI and that he took detailed notes after their meetings because the president might “lie.”
“It confused me when I saw on television, the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation,” said Comey.
He said that while he agreed a president can fire the FBI director at any time for any reason Trump’s subsequent comments on the “disarray” at FBI were defamatory.
“The administration then chose to defame me, and more importantly the FBI, by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader,” said Comey.
“Those were lies plain and simple. And I’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry the American people were told them.”
Mueller has all the memos
Comey testified that he turned over his memos to special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I turned them over to Bob Mueller’s investigators,” Comey said.
Democrats and others have suggested that Trump tried to obstruct justice by firing Comey. Mueller has the authority to investigate any accusation of obstructing justice.
Flynn under criminal investigation when fired
Comey confirmed that Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, was facing a criminal investigation at the time he was fired.
Comey said that during a February meeting in the Oval Office Trump asked him to “let this go” in reference to a probe of Flynn’s interactions with Russian officials.
“I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in,” Comey said, explaining why he did not tell Trump his request was inappropriate.
Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina and the committee’s chairman, asked Comey whether he thought Trump was trying to “obstruct justice” with the Flynn request
“Gen. Flynn at that point in time was in legal jeopardy,” Comey said in response. “There was an open FBI investigation of his statements in connection with Russian contacts. And the contacts themselves.”
Comey’s testimony confirmed that Flynn was under criminal investigation while serving as the national security adviser, which gave him access to top secret intelligence from U.S. spy agencies and regular meetings with Trump.
–With files from the Associated Press