President Donald Trump declared victory Friday morning in the wake of sometimes-scathing testimony by James Comey, the former FBI director he fired amidst an investigation of his presidential campaign.
Just before 6:30 a.m., the early rising chief executive tweeted that he feels “total and complete vindication.”
A day after Comey alleged the president told the American people “lies” when explaining why he abruptly terminated the country’s top cop, Trump tweeted that Comey uttered “so many false statements and lies.”
Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2017
“Those were lies, plain and simple,” Comey said during his brief opening statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. He was referring to Trump’s claim that he terminated the country’s top cop, in part, because the FBI was in disarray.
A couple hours later, during an off-camera press briefing at the House, principal deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders defended her boss.
“I can definitely say the president is not a liar,” Sanders said. “And, I think it’s, frankly, insulting that that question would be asked.”
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Trump also labeled Comey a “leaker,” an apparent reference to the former FBI chief’s decision to give memos he crafted after conversations with Trump to the New York Times via a friend.
Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s personal lawyer, also declared victory on the president’s behalf Thursday afternoon after Comey wrapped up his public testimony.
“Contrary to numerous false press accounts leading up to today’s hearing, Mr. Comey has now finally confirmed publicly what he repeatedly told the President privately: The president was not under investigation as part of any probe into Russian interference,” Kasowitz said. “He also admitted that there is no evidence that a single vote changed as a result of any Russian interference.
“Mr. Comey’s testimony also makes clear that the president never sought to impede the investigation into attempted Russian interference in the 2016 election,” Trump’s lawyer said.
But Comey testified that during a February Oval Office conversation before which Trump dismissed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, senior adviser Jared Kushner and others, Trump did indeed pressure him to drop part of the bureau’s Russia probe.
The former FBI chief told senators he took Trump’s comments about the FBI’s probe of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, “as a direction” to stop investigating the retired three-star Army general.
What’s more, Comey repeatedly told the committee he believes he was fired by Trump because of the bureau’s Russia investigation, which includes potential ties between the Trump-Pence presidential campaign and Moscow.
“I take the president at his word, that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., at one point Thursday. “Something about the way I was conducting it, the president felt, created pressure on him that he wanted to relieve.”
Comey did tell the panel Trump never overtly asked him to drop the overall Russia probe, but the president did, during a phone conversation allegedly complain the investigation had placed a “cloud” over his presidency that was making it hard for him to govern.
“I could be wrong, but what I think he meant by the cloud was the entire investigation is,” the former FBI director told senators, “taking up oxygen and making it hard for me to focus on the things I want to focus on.”
While Trump is declaring victory, some legal experts say Comey’s testimony bolstered a potential obstruction of justice case. That’s because of what the fired FBI boss testified about Trump’s pressure to drop the case against Flynn.
“There is a general sense that Mr. Comey stopped short of suggesting that Mr. Trump engaged in obstruction of justice, in relation to either himself or Flynn,” according to Bob Bauer, who was White House counsel under President Barack Obama.
“But there is something close to it,” Bauer says, pointing to Comey’s written testimony: “the intimation that the president’s expressed desire that Mr. Comey ‘let…go’ of the Flynn investigation would require evaluation at some point in the future.”
Trump’s fate now rests in the hands of another former FBI director, Robert Mueller, who is the Justice Department’s special counsel in charge of the Russia investigation.