Asked on Friday if he is willing to give sworn testimony about conversations with the former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, President Donald Trump answered “100 percent,” but then immediately added: “I didn’t say under oath.”
The president made it clear, however, he is willing to answer questions from Robert Mueller, another former FBI director, who now heads a special investigation looking into Russian influence on U.S. politics.
The exchange between the president and reporters took place at the White House Rose Garden on a hot June afternoon as Trump stood alongside Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.
“James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said and some of the things that he said weren’t true,” remarked the president, essentially accusing Comey of lying under oath during Thursday’s testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Response to Comey testimony
Trump emphasized that Comey’s testimony demonstrated there “was no collusion, no obstruction” but that “he’s a leaker.”
Questioned during the joint news conference whether he asked Comey to drop the investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, the president replied, “there’d be nothing wrong if I did say it according to everybody that I’ve read today, but I did not say that.”
Trump also responded that he had never asked for a loyalty oath from Comey, who the president fired a month ago.
“I hardly know the man. I’m not going to say, ‘I want you to pledge allegiance.’ Who would do that?” he asked.
Comey on Thursday said he hoped the White House would release any tapes, if they exist, of his conversations with the president.
Trump asked on Friday about whether there are tapes, said he would respond to that “in the very near future” but “you’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer.”
Pressed later by reporters when Trump will reveal that, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer replied, “when he’s ready.”
Committees seek alleged tapes
The Republican congressman who presides over the House intelligence committee, along with the ranking Democrat, on Friday said they have requested that any such White House tapes be handed over by June 23.
Congressmen Mike Conaway and Adam Schiff also have sent a letter to Comey requesting any of his relevant notes.
A similar letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee, with a June 9 deadline, also was sent to Columbia University law professor Daniel Richman.
Comey testified Thursday he realized that a special counsel would have to be appointed to pursue the widening investigation of Russian influences on U.S. officials, so he took the extraordinary step of “leaking” some of his private notes to Richman, who read excerpts to a New York Times reporter
Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s personal lawyer, plans to file a complaint as early as next week about Comey’s disclosure of conversations with the president, according to media reports.
‘This Russia thing’
During his Senate testimony, Coney also told lawmakers that Trump was not a target in the bureau’s investigation into Russia.
Trump has previously said he fired Comey, who was leading the FBI’s probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in last year’s election, with “this Russia thing” on his mind.
Comey testified he believed Trump was trying to get him to drop the investigation of Flynn (who the president also fired) and that White House officials spread “lies, plain and simple” to cover up the reason behind Comey’s dismissal.
“There’s no doubt that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey told lawmakers, referring to the widening probe of Russian influence on last year’s U.S. presidential election, which American intelligence agencies have said was an effort by the Kremlin to help Trump defeat his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Asked whether he felt Trump had obstructed justice by his actions since taking office this year, Comey deflected those queries, saying such questions should go to Mueller, the special counsel.
Obstruction of justice is a federal criminal and an impeachable offense.