‘My view was that the content of those unclassified — the memorialization of those conversations was my recollection recorded’
News broke Sunday night that more than half of the notes taken by departed FBI director James Comey after his meetings with President Trump contained classified information.
Just last month Comey twice denied his memos contained classified material.
While testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Trump’s firing of Comey, the former director stressed that these memorandums contained no classified information.
The memos, he insisted, were not “government documents” beholden to restrictions on federal records. Instead, he told Sen. Roy Blunt, he was free to share these records with his friends in the media — which he did.
And in an exchange with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), he said he wrote the memos in a way that would be unclassified:
WARNER: And I — I found it very interesting that, in the memo that you wrote after this February 14th pull-aside, you made clear that you wrote that memo in a way that was unclassified.
If you affirmatively made the decision to write a memo that was unclassified, was that because you felt, at some point, the facts of that meeting would have to come clean and come clear and actually be able to be cleared in a way that could be shared with the American people?
COMEY: Well, 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 — and this committee gets this, but sometimes when things are classified, it tangles them up. It’s hard…
And here’s a transcript from his exchange with Sen. Blunt:
BLUNT: “You said, after you were 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? Wasn’t that (ph) — what kind of information did you give to a friend?”
COMEY: “That the — the — the Flynn conversation, that the president asked me to let the — the Flynn — I’m forgetting my exact own words, but the — 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 consider it to be somehow your own personal document that you could share with the media as you wanted to?”
COMEY: “Correct. I…”
BLUNT: “Through a friend?”
COMEY: “… I understood this to be my recollection, recorded, of my conversation with the president. As a private citizen, I felt free to share that. I thought it very important to get it out.”
BLUNT: “So were all of your memos that you’ve recorded on classified or other documents memos that might be yours as a private citizen?”
COMEY: “I’m sorry, I’m not following the question.”
BLUNT: “Well, I think you said you’d used classified — a classified…”
COMEY: “Not the classified documents. Unclassified — I don’t have any of them anymore. I gave them to the special counsel. But, yeah, my view was that the content of those unclassified — the memorialization of those conversations was my recollection recorded.”