President Trump took to Twitter early Friday to declare victory in his war of words with James Comey, denouncing the FBI director he fired as a liar and a “leaker” based on Comey’s damaging testimony about their interactions.
But, in a leap of logic that left observers puzzled, he also claimed “vindication” on the basis of the same testimony.
“Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s claim of vindication contrasts sharply with most legal analysts’ takeaway from the testimony. Both the New York Times and Washington Post ran front-page stories Friday raising the prospect of an obstruction of justice investigation.
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Comey said during his testimony to the Senate that as FBI director he drafted — and shared with his senior staff — memos about his interactions with Trump that left him uneasy. According to Comey, the president asked him to “go easy” in his investigation of fired national security adviser Michael Flynn, an unprecedented request from a president to the head of the FBI. Last month after he was fired, Comey said a threatening Trump tweet prompted him to ask a friend to share the content of the memos with the press — presumably the basis for Trump’s charge that he was a “leaker.”
It wasn’t clear from Trump’s tweet what he was accusing Comey of lying about, but the president’s personal lawyer issued a statement following the testimony disputing several key points. His lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, denied that Trump pressured the FBI regarding the Flynn investigation or demanded “loyalty” from Comey.
“The president never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone,” Kasowitz said.
For his part, Comey was much clearer during his testimony on what he accused Trump’s administration of spreading “lies” about.
“Although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me, and more importantly, the FBI, by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader,” Comey said Thursday. “Those were lies, plain and simple. And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I am so sorry that the American people were told them.”
After Trump abruptly fired Comey last month, the White House released a bewildering and continually evolving explanation for the dismissal. The administration initially accused Comey’s FBI of being mismanaged and said he was fired for publicly bungling his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.
Trump himself quickly dismissed that explanation, however, saying Comey was terminated for being a “showboat.” He reportedly told top Russian diplomats that the firing relieved pressure from the FBI’s investigation into whether any Trump campaign associates colluded with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election.
During his testimony, Comey said Trump pushed him to lift the “cloud” of the Russia probe. As for his firing, he said he took the president’s word that it was prompted by the investigation.
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Photos: James Comey testifies at Senate hearing