James Comey said he hopes that President Trump actually recorded their private conversation during a January dinner. The ousted FBI director suggested that a tape would corroborate what he’s been saying.
On Thursday morning, Comey testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that Trump had attempted to interfere with the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in U.S. democratic institutions.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she knows the White House can be an intimidating place but wondered why Comey wasn’t more forceful in rejecting Trump’s alleged pressure on the bureau’s work. Noting that he is “strong,” Feinstein asked Comey why he didn’t say, “Mr. President, this is wrong. I cannot discuss this with you.”
“That’s a great question. Maybe if I were stronger, I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in,” he responded.
Comey said he remembers every word that was said during his meeting with Trump behind closed doors.
On May 12, just three days after Comey, Trump took to Twitter to threaten Comey with the possibility that their conversations had been recorded, suggesting that the law-enforcement professional better think twice before “leaking” information to the press. White House press secretary Sean Spicer has refused to say whether Trump records guests in the Oval Office.
“I’ve seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey said on Thursday. “I remember saying, ‘I agree he’s a good guy’ as a way of saying, ‘I’m not agreeing with what you just asked me to do.’ Again, maybe other people would be stronger in that circumstance, but that’s how I conducted myself. I hope I’ll never have another opportunity. Maybe if I did it again I would do it better.”
Later in the hearing, Comey was asked why he wrote a memo about his meeting with Trump when he had not taken similar notes about the last two presidents under whom he served: Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
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According to Comey, the memo was a precaution, considering the circumstances: He was alone with Trump, the subject matter was of great importance, and he had “a gut feeling.”
“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. And my judgment was I needed to get that out into the public square. So I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with the reporter. I didn’t do it myself, for a variety of reasons, but I asked him to.”
Though not providing a name, Comey identified this close friend as a professor at Columbia Law School.
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