A defiant President Trump on Friday accused former FBI director James B. Comey of committing perjury in his blockbuster Senate testimony and said he was willing to share his version of events under oath with the special counsel overseeing the expanding Russia investigation.
Trump emphatically declared his innocence yet refused to solve a mystery of his own making by stating whether he has tapes of his one-on-one conversations with Comey. Any such recordings could prove which man’s account is accurate, but the president played coy, saying he would wait “a fairly short period of time” to tell the public whether tapes exist, as he first suggested they might in May.
“Oh, you’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer,” he told reporters. “Don’t worry.”
During a combative news conference in the White House Rose Garden, the president said Comey’s testimony Thursday was politically motivated, contained falsehoods, and failed to establish that Trump had colluded with Russians to win last year’s election or had obstructed justice in seeking to end the federal government’s probe.
“No collusion. No obstruction. He’s a leaker,” Trump said of Comey, adding: “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.”
Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee painted a damning portrait of Trump’s character, and the president waited until Friday morning to break his silence — first in a 6:10 a.m. tweet declaring “total and complete vindication” and then in more detail at the afternoon news conference.
Comey — who testified that he had taken contemporaneous notes on all his conversations with Trump — said he believed that the president had fired him because of the Russia probe, told “lies” about Comey’s record at the bureau and sought to redirect the probe away from former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump and his aides and allies followed a two-pronged rebuttal strategy: They hung onto snippets of Comey’s testimony as categorical evidence of Trump’s innocence while using other elements to try to impugn the former FBI director’s credibility.
The president, who had followed the advice of his lawyers to refrain from commenting Thursday, was characteristically pugnacious in his presentation Friday and opted mostly to deliver broadsides rather than address the details of Comey’s testimony.
Jonathan Karl of ABC News drilled down on a couple of key facts, however, beginning with Comey’s statement that Trump had told him that he hoped Comey would let the Flynn investigation go. Trump replied three times, “I didn’t say that.”
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Philip Rucker and David Nakamura