During a Rose Garden news conference on Friday, President Donald Trump said for the first time that he is “100 percent” willing to give a sworn account of his interactions with former FBI Director James Comey.
Trump also accused Comey of lying to Congess during his testimony on Thursday to the Senate Intelligence Committee — an offense that can land a person in prison for up to five years. Comey testified that Trump asked him to quash an active investigation into one of his associates in February, weeks after the president asked his former FBI director to pledge personal loyalty. Comey says he effectively ignored both of Trump’s requests, and was fired in May.
In response to Comey’s stunning testimony, Trump and his lawyer have staked out an incoherent position. They claim that Comey is a liar who provided Congress with an inaccurate account of his interactions with Trump, specifically with regard to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the “loyalty pledge;” at the same time, however, they claim Comey’s testimony also totally vindicated the president because he indicated that Trump was not personally under investigation.
During the news conference on Friday, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl asked Trump to clarify his response to Comey’s testimony.
“You suggested he didn’t tell the truth in everything he said,” Karl said, referring to a tweet Trump posted Friday morning. “He did say, under oath, that you told him… you said you hoped the Flynn investigation — ”
Trump cut Karl off, responding, “I didn’t say that.”
“So he lied about that?” Karl asked him.
“Well, I didn’t say that,” Trump said. “I mean, I will tell you I didn’t say that… and there’d be nothing wrong if I did say it, according to everybody I read today, but I did not say that.” (A number of legal scholars actually think Trump’s comments to Comey, if detailed accurately by Comey, may constitute obstruction of justice.)
Trump also accused Comey of providing a false account of the “loyalty pledge” incident. Karl then asked if the president if he’s willing to “speak under oath to give your version of these events?”
“One hundred percent,” Trump said. “I hardly know the man, I’m not going to say, ‘I want you to pledge allegiance.’ Who would do that?”
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 9, 2017
Trump has a history of promising to deliver things that never materialize and is not known as a reliable truth-teller. But the president accusing the former FBI director of a felony is sure to pique the interest of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is picking up momentum.
On Thursday, Comey indicated Mueller’s investigation includes a probe into whether Trump obstructed justice by trying to quash the Flynn investigation, before firing the FBI director overseeing that investigation. Trump supporters in Congress and the RNC are relying upon Comey’s testimony that Trump wasn’t personally under FBI investigation during the early weeks of his presidency in an attempt to exonerate him — conveniently ignoring the former director’s suggestion that the investigation he once oversaw has escalated.