Former FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers Thursday that he deliberately leaked a memo from a key meeting with President Trump to a friend after he was fired in order to prompt the appointment of a special counsel.
The eyebrow-raising statement came during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, under questioning from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
When she asked whether Comey shared his memos with anyone outside the Department of Justice, he first referenced Trump's tweet last month about the possibility there could be "tapes" of their conversations.
"It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a tape," he said.
He then revealed, "I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter—I thought that might prompt the appointment of special counsel.”
Comey described Trump's threat about tapes as a critical driver in his decision to leak. He said he woke up in the middle of the night after Trump tweeted about that and realized there “might be corroboration” about their meeting -- spurring him to leak his notes to his friend, who he said is a professor at Columbia Law School.
During Comey’s testimony, Columbia University Professor Dan Richman confirmed to Fox News that he was, in fact, the friend to whom Comey was referring. Richman declined, however, to be interviewed.
When pressed as to why Comey didn’t share the contents of the memo with the media himself, Comey said it would be like “feeding seagulls at the beach.”
“I was worried that the media was camping at the end of my driveway, my wife and I were going away,” Comey said. “I was worried it would be like feeding seagulls at the beach if it was I who gave it to the media, so I asked my friend to.”
The New York Times first published the report on May 16, revealing the contents of Comey’s memo which said the president asked him to shut down the federal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting. The New York Times cited the memo penned by Comey, which, the fired FBI chief acknowledged during his testimony Thursday.
Robert Mueller later was appointed as special counsel in the Russia investigation.
In prior congressional testimony on May 3, Comey said that he never acted as an anonymous source for the media about the Russia probe or Clinton email investigation. Comey also formerly testified that he had never authorized anyone to speak anonymously on his behalf.
The president’s tweet regarding the “tapes” wasn’t posted until May 12.
When asked about the tapes, Comey said "I hope there are tapes."
"I hope there are -- all I can do is hope," Comey said. "The president surely knows if he taped me -- my feelings aren't hurt, release all the tapes!"
When pressed by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., about whether Comey would release his memos to the public, Comey replied: "Sure."
Thursday afternoon, Trump's outside counsel Marc Kasowitz released a statement noting Comey’s admission and saying: “We will leave it to the appropriate authorities to determine whether this leak should be investigated along with all those others being investigated.”
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, Christopher Wallace, Wes Barrett contributed to this report.