Comey’s prepared remarks and his testimony Thursday confirmed many details that had been reported by The Washington Post, New York Times and other media organizations since he was fired.
On Thursday, Comey acknowledged that this was not entirely a coincidence. Comey said he shared copies of his memos documenting his Trump meetings with a “close friend” — a professor at Columbia Law School — so this person could share the information with a reporter.
Comey also said he did this hoping to help prompt the appointment of a special counsel, a move he made after Trump suggested last month that there were recordings of the meetings between the president and the now-fired FBI director.
Comey would not name his friend but did say it was not Benjamin Wittes, another friend who spoke to the New York Times after that paper published the details of the memos Comey had prepared.
Daniel Charles Richman, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at Columbia Law School, confirmed Thursday that he was the friend who helped Comey release these details. Richman declined further comment.
Comey said he “woke up in the middle of the night” in a panic about the president’s tweet regarding possible tapes of their conversations.
In a later line of questioning, Comey was again asked about his move to have his notes released to a media organization.
Comey said instead he felt the document belonged to him as a personal recollection of his conversation with the president, and not the FBI.
“As a private citizen, I felt free to share that. I thought it was very important to get it out,” Comey said.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) asked why he would not just release the notes to the media himself.
“I was worried, the media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point, and I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide. I was worried it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach,” he said.
Comey also told Blunt that he had handed over his documents to Robert Mueller III, the former FBI director and special prosecutor overseeing the Russia-related investigation.
“I don’t have any of them anymore. I gave them to the special counsel,” Comey said.
In response to later questioning from Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Comey said he was not sure if Richman still has a copy of his memos. Lankford asked if his friend could provide those documents to the Senate committee, saying it was important for them to have the documents involved.
Madhumita Murgia contributed to this report.