Recently released court documents from January 2018 demonstrate that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team had concerns over the public release of former FBI Director James Comey’s memos detailing his interactions with President Donald Trump.
The memos by Comey documented conversations he had with Trump both shortly before he became president and after his inauguration, up until Comey’s firing by Trump which came about in May 2017.
Although Comey testified shortly after his termination about the content of his memos, the details of what was held within were still relatively scant. Mueller’s team worried that, if the Comey memos were made public, witnesses they had yet to interview might change their stories altogether based upon the contents within the documents authored by the former FBI director.
“In any investigation of this kind, the recollections of one witness, if disclosed to another potential witness, have the potential to influencing, advertently or inadvertently, the recollections of that witness,” special counsel prosecutor Michael Dreeben told the court, according to the documents obtained by CNN.
Drebeen told the court that one person “whose conduct is within the scope of the investigation is the President of the United States.” The investigation into Trump, including his attempts at possibly obstructing justice of the inquiry itself, began before Mueller’s appointment as special counsel to the FBI investigation.
It was the hope of the special counsel’s office that an interview between Trump and them could occur before the Comey memos would be made public. At the time in January 2018, Mueller’s team was in negotiations to set up an in-person interview with the president during a meeting at Camp David.
That meeting ultimately fell through, and Trump eventually submitted written interview questions, none of which dealt with the issue of obstruction of justice.
Comey testified after he was fired that one of the reasons he leaked his notes about meetings with Trump was that he hoped doing so would result in the appointment of a special counsel to continue the Russia investigation.
Comey shared the memo with Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School, who in turn shared indirect information about what the former FBI director wrote regarding his meetings with Trump, per reporting from Fox 5 in New York.