Over the weekend, President Trump launched a sustained attack on Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russia’s potential collaboration with the Trump campaign. Now, Trump is also working overtime to discredit former FBI Director James Comey.
The recent attack on Mueller represented a notable shift for Trump — who, until this weekend, had not tweeted the word “Mueller.” The shift coincided with Mueller’s team sending Trump a list of topics in a potential interview. The topics reportedly focused on whether Trump obstructed justice when he pressured Comey to end the Russia investigation and then fired him.
Comey, who says he memorialized his conversations with Trump in contemporaneous memos, would be a key witness against Trump in any obstruction charge.
In a tweet Sunday morning, Trump doctored a quote from Comey to make it seem like Comey perjured himself in front of Congress.
Wow, watch Comey lie under oath to Senator G when asked “have you ever been an anonymous source…or known someone else to be an anonymous source…?” He said strongly “never, no.” He lied as shown clearly on @foxandfriends.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2018
The claim here relates back to Andrew McCabe, who was Comey’s deputy and who briefly served as acting FBI Director after Trump fired Comey.
McCabe was fired by Jeff Sessions on Friday, two days before he would have been eligible for his full pension, after a lot of pressure from Trump. Sessions justified the firing by saying that McCabe was not candid with investigators who were looking into media leaks related to the Hillary Clinton email investigation. In his defense, McCabe said that he had the authority to speak to a reporter and “others, including the Director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter.”
Republicans have seized on that line, claiming it contradicts testimony that Comey gave before Congress under oath. The exchange at issue occurred on May 3, 2017 between Comey and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA):
GRASSLEY: Director Comey, have you ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?
GRASSLEY: Question two, relatively related, have you ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation?
That exact exchange was played on Fox News on Sunday, right before Trump posted his tweet.
Comey’s answer to the actual question was not necessarily false. Comey could have known that McCabe was interacting with the reporter, without authorizing him to be an anonymous source. Trump, however, shifts the question to make it seem like Comey is definitely lying. He pretends Grassley asked Comey whether he knew of anyone at the FBI to be an anonymous source, not whether Comey authorized it.
The purpose of this is to make Comey seem like a less credible witness against Trump. Firing McCabe, who also compiled contemporaneous memos about his conversations with Trump, for lack of “candor” fulfills the same purpose.