President Trump has broken the silence he maintained during former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony Thursday, saying on Twitter that he was vindicated in the hearing that explored Russian meddling in the U.S. election, its ties to Trump’s security adviser, and Trump’s dealings with Comey.
“Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!” the president tweeted early Friday morning.
In referring to Comey, Trump was citing the former FBI director’s acknowledgment that he had asked a friend to leak his memos about his conversations with the president. Comey told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that he had hoped to prod the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation, which occurred last month.
By referring to “total and complete vindication,” the president was likely thinking of Comey’s confirmation Thursday that, as NPR’s Jessica Taylor reports, “there was no counterintelligence nor criminal investigation of Trump individually and that the president was not personally under investigation.”
Testifying one month after Trump fired him, Comey said he lost his job because of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. He also said that any other explanations that have come from the White House were “lies, plain and simple,” as Jessica reports.
Comey described how he had documented his conversations with Trump, in which he said the president asked for his “loyalty” and for him to end the inquiry into Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned in February over discrepancies in his explanations for contacts with Russia’s ambassador.
The former FBI chief told senators that he created those records because he “was honestly concerned [Trump] might lie” about what was said in the encounters, in which the president had ensured the two of them would be alone.
After Comey delivered his much-anticipated testimony, Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, held a news conference in which he sought to refute several of Comey’s assertions.
Stating that Trump had never tried to pressure Comey into ending the probe into Flynn’s behavior, Kasowitz added, “The president also never told Mr. Comey, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty’ in form or substance.”
Trump’s attorney also criticized Comey’s leaking of details about his talk with Trump, calling it an “unauthorized disclosure of privileged information.”
Kasowitz accused Comey of misleading senators about the timing of his leak — Comey said he did it only after being alarmed by a tweet in which the president said the fired FBI boss “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
Kasowitz declared that “the public record reveals that The New York Times was quoting from these memos” before Trump’s tweet about tapes. But NPR’s Scott Horsley reports that “in fact, Comey’s timeline appears to be correct.”