WASHINGTON – The war of words between President Donald Trump and former FBI Director James Comey may have just gone nuclear.
At a White House press conference this afternoon, Trump, in so many words, accused Comey of lying under oath when he testified before the Senate Intelligence committee on Thursday.
Trump said two key points in Comey’s testimony were not true:
- That the president had asked the former FBI director to drop the investigation into former National Security adviser Michael Flynn,
- And that the president had asked Comey to swear his loyalty to him.
Asked if he would give his version of events under oath, the president replied, “One-hundred percent.”
Trump said he would be “glad” to repeat his assertions to special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election, and whether anyone on the Trump team colluded with Russia.
Trump ridiculed the contention that he would ask Comey for his loyalty.
“I hardly know the man,”said an incredulous Trump. “I’m not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance.”
“Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean, think of it, I hardly know the man. It doesn’t make sense. No, I didn’t say that and I didn’t say the other.”
By “the other,” Trump was referring to Comey’s contention the president had asked him to drop the FBI investigation into Flynn.
Trump did say parts of the former FBI chief’s testimony vindicated what he has been saying all along, there was no collusion by the president or his associates with Russia and that he did not attempt to obstruct justice.
But, he added, what the testimony also revealed is that Comey, whom he fired on May 9, is a “leaker.”
The president was also asked if there recordings of his conversations with Comey, as he had suggested in a tweet.
Trump said that reporters would find out very soon, but, “You’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer, don’t worry.”
The prospect of those recordings is what Comey said prompted him to leak a memo to the New York Times describing his conversation with Trump about Flynn, with the explicit hope it would trigger the appointment of a special counsel.
The former FBI chief testified, “[M]y judgment was I needed to get that out in the public square so 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 but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. So I asked a close friend of mine to do it.”
Columbia law professor Daniel Richman confirmed he leaked the memo to the Times.
When asked by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., what gave him the legal authority to leak the memo, Comey replied: “As a private citizen, I felt free to share that. I thought it was very important to get it out.”
However, as legal analysts have pointed out, that memo could be considered evidence in the investigation, and leaking it could land Comey in hot water.
As WND is reporting, legal scholar and George Washington University Law School Jonathan Turley wrote, “those memos could be viewed as a government record and potential evidence in a criminal investigation.”
“Besides being subject to Nondisclosure Agreements,” Turley explained, “Comey falls under federal laws governing the disclosure of classified and nonclassified information. Assuming that the memos were not classified (though it seems odd that it would not be classified even on the confidential level), there is 18 U.S.C. § 641 which makes it a crime to steal, sell, or convey ‘any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof.'”
Multiple news outlets reported Friday that Trump’s personal attorney Marc Kasowitz will file a complaint about Comey’s leak with the Justice Department and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As for why Trump felt vindicated that he did not commit obstruction of justice, during his testimony Comey actually appeared to indicate the president had encouraged the investigation because it was important to learn if any of his associates had, in fact, colluded with Russians.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., asked Comey if he got the impression Trump had asked him, “‘[I]f there are people in my circle that are (colluding with Russia)’, let’s finish the investigation, is that how you took it?”
“Yes, sir. Yes,” replied the former FBI chief.
Comey also testified he did not feel a request by Trump to drop the Flynn investigation was a request to drop the Russia investigation.
As for rampant media reports claiming Trump or his associates may have colluded with Moscow, Comey testified “many” reports have been “dead wrong.”
He singled out a particularly damaging article, debunking a Feb. 14, report from the New York Times that stated, “Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.”
The former FBI chief said, “In the main, it was not true.”
At a press conference on May 18, Trump said the entire investigation into collusion with Russia “has been a witch hunt.”
“And there is no collusion between, certainly, myself and my campaign – but I can always speak for myself – and the Russians,” he said. “Zero.”
WND reported last month that it was President Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan, who prompted the investigation into claims the Trump campaign had inappropriate contacts with the Russian government.
Brennan admitted to the House Intelligence Committee during testimony on May 30 that he instigated the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia even though he had seen no evidence of that.
Brennan claimed he had seen some contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials, and he was worried that might lead to collusion. So he referred the matter to the FBI, which launched an investigation.
As WND has reported repeatedly, top Democrats have all admitted investigators have not found any evidence of any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign or administration.
Feinstein, who serves on the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, twice said she had seen no such evidence. Other Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee have said they don’t expect to find any evidence of collusion.
Fierce Trump critic Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has had to admit there is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Obama’s own former top spies, Brennan, director of national intelligence James Clapper, as well as former acting CIA Director Michael Morell, have all said they have seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump team and the Russian government.