President Trump on Friday accused James B Comey, the fired FBI
director, of lying under oath to Congress, saying he would gladly provide sworn testimony
disputing Comey’s charge that the president forced him out because of his handling of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia.
Trump asserted that the comments on Thursday by Comey, whom he called “a leaker,” had proved that there was no collusion between his campaign and Moscow, nor any obstruction of justice by the president. He hinted again that he had tapes of his private talks with the former FBI
chief that would disprove Mr. Comey’s account, but declined to confirm the existence of any recordings.
“Yesterday showed no collusion, no obstruction,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden, during a news conference with the visiting Romanian president, Klaus Iohannis.
He dismissed Comey’s testimony
before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is investigating whether his campaign worked with Russia to sway the election, as a politically motivated stunt orchestrated by adversaries bitter about his victory in November.
“That was an excuse by the Democrats, who lost an election that some people think they shouldn’t have lost,” he said. “But we were very, very happy, and, frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said, and some of the things that he said just weren’t true.”
The remarks were a defiant response from Trump, who had remained uncharacteristically silent on social media during Comey’s blockbuster day of testimony
on Thursday, as the former FBI
chief laid out an account that strongly suggested the president’s private exchanges with him had been an attempt to obstruct justice. They escalated an extraordinary public feud between a sitting president and the ousted FBI
director who had been investigating his campaign, each now engaging in full-throated accusations that the other is lying.
But Trump’s comments reflected a highly selective reading of Comey’s testimony, much of which painted a damaging picture of the president’s conduct. Comey told Congress that the president had not personally been under investigation while he was the FBI
director, and that at one point Trump suggested he would like to find out whether any of his associates had done anything wrong. But his account also strongly suggested that Trump had tried to influence his handling of the Russia inquiry.
Trump denied that he had ever asked Comey to drop the FBI
investigation into his former national security adviser’s dealings with Russia, or asked for a pledge of loyalty, as Comey asserted Thursday. Those conversations are reflected in memos Comey wrote, and now are in the possession of Robert S Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia investigation who was named after Comey’s firing.
“I didn’t say that,” Trump said of the request regarding the former national security adviser, Michael T Flynn. “And there’d be nothing wrong if I did say it.”
Of the loyalty pledge from Comey, Trump said, “I hardly know the man; I’m not going to ask him to pledge allegiance.”
Asked whether he would be willing to provide his version under oath, Trump responded, “100 per cent.” He said of Mueller, “I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you.”
The president declined repeatedly to say whether, as he suggested last month in a Twitter post, he had recordings of his conversations with Comey. “I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time,” he said. “You’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer.”
The tantalising comment appeared to catch the attention of congressional investigators participating in the Russia probe. Representative K Michael Conaway, Republican of Texas, and Representative Adam B Schiff, Democrat of California, quickly announced they had written to Donald F McGahn II, the White House counsel, requesting that any recordings or memos about Trump’s conversations with Comey be furnished to the intelligence committee within two weeks. They also said they had made a formal request to Comey for copies of the memos he testified about on Thursday or notes reflecting the meetings.
During his Senate testimony
on Thursday, Comey said he relished the idea of recordings of his conversations with Trump becoming public, saying, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” and seeming to taunt the president at one point, remarking, “Release all the tapes — I’m good with it.”
Comey testified that it was Trump’s May 12 Twitter post suggesting there were such tapes that prompted him to ask an intermediary to share information with a reporter from a memo he had created about his interactions with the president. The New York Times was read portions of the memo and on May 16 published an article, in which it was revealed that Trump had asked Comey to drop the Flynn matter.
© 2017 The New York Times News Service