- Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Donald Trump suggested Friday that former FBI Director James Comey lied under oath when he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
Trump, in a press conference at the White House, said he “didn’t say” he “hoped” Comey would “let go” of an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
But he added that if he did make those comments, there was nothing wrong with it, according to “everybody that I read today.”
Trump, speaking alongside Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at the Rose Garden, also said he was “100%” willing to testify under oath to dispute the claims Comey made before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“I didn’t say that,” Trump said of Comey’s assertion that Trump said he “hoped” Comey would “let go” of the Flynn investigation during a February meeting. “Well, I didn’t say that. I will tell you I didn’t say that. And there’d be nothing wrong with it if I did say that, according to everybody that I read today, but I did not say that.”
Trump did not make clear what he read. Earlier Friday, he retweeted a post from prominent lawyer and Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who said there was “no plausible case” for obstruction of justice and that “we must distinguish crimes from” political “sins.”
Asked about the “loyalty” pledge Comey said Trump had asked of him, Trump also insisted that Comey’s testimony was untrue. He expressed his “100%” willingness to testify under oath to rebut Comey’s assertion.
“I hardly know the man,” Trump said. “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.”
Trump added that he “would be glad” to tell special counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the Russia investigation, “exactly what I just told you,” but under oath.
Earlier Friday, Trump tweeted that Comey’s testimony was a “total and complete vindication” for the president “despite so many false statements and lies.”
He explained why he felt vindicated by the testimony:
“No collusion, no obstruction, he’s a leaker. But we want to get back to running our great country. Jobs, trade deficits – we want them to disappear fast. North Korea, big problem. Middle East, a big problem. So that’s what I am focused on. That’s what I have been focused on. But yesterday showed no collusion, no obstruction. We are doing really well. That was an excuse by the Democrats who lost an election that some people think they shouldn’t have lost.”
“Because it’s almost impossible for the Democrats to lose the Electoral College. You have to run up the whole East Coast and you have to win everything as a Republican, and that’s what we did. So it was just an excuse, but we were very, very happy. And frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said. And some of the things he said just weren’t true.”
Trump also addressed the potential existence of any “tapes.” Trump’s May tweet that Comey better hope “no tapes” exist of their conversations drove the fired FBI director to instruct a good friend – a Columbia University law professor – to leak information on his memos of his conversations with the president to the news media because he felt the investigation may have reached the point at which a special counsel needed to be appointed. Trump and his outside attorney, Marc Kasowitz, zeroed in on this and lambasted Comey for ordering the “leaks.”
During his Thursday testimony, Comey said he hoped Trump would produce the tapes if he does indeed have them.
On Friday, Trump said on three occassions that the media will know about whether or not the tapes exist sometime soon.
“Well, I’ll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future,” he said, later adding when asked again that he was “not hinting anything” about the existence of any tape recorded conversations.
“I will 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,” he said.
On Thursday, Comey’s hearing provided several bruising moments for Trump. Comey, whom Trump fired in early May, said he believed he was fired “because of the Russia investigation,” amplifying calls that Trump was obstructing justice. He said he took Trump’s comments that the president “hoped” for the ousted FBI director to “let go” of the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn “as a direction.”
Comey said he kept memos on his conversations with Trump – a move he said he did not do with two prior presidents or other top Justice Department officials – because he “was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting.” And he said that, in firing him from the top FBI post, Trump and his administration tried to “defame” him by spreading “lies, plain and simple,” after his departure, citing Trump’s “shifting explanations,” which he said included Trump going on TV and “saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation.”
But Comey did not provide any proverbial “smoking gun” on the situation.
As FBI director, Comey oversaw the bureau’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign engaged in collusion with Russian officials to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Some top Democrats had already started to call for Trump to testify under oath. Those Democrats included Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
“I called on him to do this yesterday,” Murphy tweeted after Trump’s Rose Garden press conference. “Now, let’s make it happen. Senate can send over the invite ASAP.”