The president of the United States has accused the man he fired as head of the FBI of lying under oath to Congress. And, President Donald J. Trump has publicly implied that he has tape recordings of private conversations he had with ex-FBI Director James Comey in the White House.
But when asked by reporters about the tapes, Trump chose to be coy.
“Well, I’ll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future,” he said. When pressed on the issue, the president insisted he wasn’t “hinting anything,” before adding, “Oh, you’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer, don’t worry.”
This isn’t time for Trump or Comey, for that matter, to withhold information that may prove valuable to the various investigations into Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election and its ties to the Trump campaign.
Two congressional committees are reviewing reams of documents and gathering facts from a long list of witnesses.
In addition, highly respected former FBI Director Robert Mueller is serving as special counsel to oversee the FBI’s probe of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election and related matters.
On Friday, the House intelligence committee sent a letter to White House counsel Don McGahn asking if any tape recordings or memos of Comey’s conversations with the president exist now or had existed in the past.
The committee also sent a letter to Comey asking for any notes or memos in his possession pertaining to the discussions he had with Trump before being abruptly fired last month.
The committee has set a June 23 deadline for the materials.
The president is contending that Comey lied when he appeared last week before the Senate intelligence committee and testified about several one-on-one interactions with Trump.
The former FBI director told senators that Trump sought a pledge of “loyalty” to him and wanted Comey to back off on the FBI’s investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and to disclose that Trump himself was not under investigation.
Comey said he refused on all points, told the committee of the detailed memos he had written after his conversations with Trump, and said he hoped those conversations were taped because he is confident of the veracity of his testimony.
TRUMP: NO COLLUSION
In response, the president insisted that nothing Comey said pointed to collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice.
“Yesterday showed no collusion, no obstruction of justice,” he said. He further denied asking Comey for his “loyalty,” contradicting Comey’s detailed sworn testimony about a private dinner the two men had in the White House.
“No I didn’t say that,” Trump stated abruptly.
Asked if he would make that denial under oath, he said, “100 percent.”
Congress should take the president up on his offer to tell his side of the story – under oath.
Comey, a veteran lawman with an impeccable record of service, did give Trump and his defenders reason to gloat when he admitted that he had directed a friend to release to a reporter contents of memos he’d written documenting his conversations with the president.
The information was shared with a New York Times reporter.
“ … and WOW, Comey is a leaker,” the president tweeted early the next morning. He derisively repeated the “leaker” moniker when he spoke to reporters in the Rose Garden.
Trump and his supporters are determined to put an end to the Russia hacking investigations that have overshadowed the Republican president’s agenda and the ability of the GOP-controlled Congress to get things done.
Indeed, Trump has brought in his personal lawyer to deal with Comey, and Marc Kasowitz wasted little time in revealing his strategy.
Kasowitz is expected to file a complaint with the Justice Department inspector general against Comey. The contention of the Trump legal team is that the former FBI chief publicly released “privileged information” relating to his duties as the nation’s chief law enforcement official.
Given that Comey was a private citizen when he released the memos, which reflect his recollections of the interactions with the president, it is appropriate to determine if he illegally shared state secrets with unauthorized individuals.