In the wake of President Donald Trump’s tweet last May hinting there might be “tapes” of their conversations, former FBI director James Comey said he had a friend disclose details of his interactions with Trump in order to prompt a special counsel.
Comey told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday that he felt it necessary to prompt a special counsel because he thought leadership at the Justice Department “would not be aggressive enough” and specifically cited a lack of confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as part of his reasoning.
“I thought that the department as currently supervised would not be aggressive enough to go … get the tapes,” Comey said.
Tapper asked whether Comey thought that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would not be strong enough, and Comey answered, “Well, he had recused himself and it was a new deputy attorney general, who I didn’t have confidence in, given what I’d seen around my firing, and so I thought something has to be done.”
When he fired Comey, Trump cited the recommendation of Rosenstein, who along with Sessions had advised Comey’s termination. The administration specifically cited a memo from Rosenstein that criticized Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Comey added that at the time, there was a lot of talk publicly about appointing a special counsel, but that he thought “something has to be done to push them to appoint something who will have the gumption to go get the tapes.”
The former FBI director first described the process by which he attempted to prompt the appointment of a special counsel in testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee last year.
“The President tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I better hope there’s not tapes,” Comey testified. “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 a tape. My judgment was, I need to get that out into the public square. I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. I asked a close friend to do it.”