This came up after today's James Comey's testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

On CNN, after the hearing was finished, they showed a screen that said

Comey: Wrote memos after fearing Trump would lie

How did he write these memos such that they are "official" accounts of what happened with his 1 on 1 meeting with the president? I seem to remember him saying this morning that the memos were written by a private citizen and unclassified but the statement on CNN makes it sound like he wrote the memos to cover his butt and that they are official accounts from his side of what happened.

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    A personal "memo" could be something you scratch down on a gum wrapper for your own use, or it could be an official memorandum document one makes regarding events that have bearing on their professional occupation. Kind of like how "theory" has very different meaning in everyday layman's language and how it is defined in science. Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 21:36

3 Answers 3


James Comey personally can introduce his copies of the memos and testify to their recorded information. This helps insulate him against charges that he is misremembering the time of the statement or the words that were said. They're still reliant on his testimony that they were accurate when he wrote them, but they protect him against incorrect recall.

Comey sent the memos to other people. The other people can testify as to when he sent them and what they said at the time. Also that their copies weren't tampered with from the time that they received them.

Comey sent some of the memos through official systems, e.g. by email. The times, size, and possibly the content of emails sent to and from government addresses can be reproduced after the fact.

Even if Comey had official records, they still wouldn't supply anything more. We have to rely on his testimony as to what was said and when. Any records only show that he made that claim at an earlier time. They don't show that the claim was true.

You don't include the exact wording of the CNN statements that made you think of these as official records. The quoted statement does not indicate that to me. The one thing that the memos establish is that he was making this claim to others previously and that he wrote down the words shortly after he would have heard them. They don't need to be "official" to establish those two things.

  • thx for the answer. I thought they were "official" b/c the headline on the screen made me think that way. Comey wrote it b/c he feared Trump was lying. That made it sound to me that if he wrote it down in an official memo, it makes his statement true but perhaps I misunderstood what the headline was trying to say. What you wrote in your answer makes sense to me; that it insulates him against people saying he made things up after everything blew up or what not. It doesn't make what he said true, just that he's not flip/flopping, etc.
    – Classified
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 23:17

Memos do not prove fact (someone can obviously lie while writing something down) but they provide a written record which becomes harder and harder for the author to manipulate/spin if added to regularly and exhaustively. This can add weight in some people's perspective, yet are still weighed against the perceived credibility and honesty of an individual.

In the case of Comey's, a few memos are not likely to add a sense of legitimacy beyond that of a direct statement. If he later provides an entire string of memos taken over weeks or months, than it will be a different situation.


The time-stamps are official which serves to demonstrate they were not all conceived and written together after-the-fact.

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    Change the clock on your computer, Write a document, save it. Look, it is from the past. Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 22:16
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    This (attempts to) answer how we know the memos date from his conversations. It doesn't address the actual question, which is how they are official accounts.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 22:19

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