In a response to former FBI director James Comey’s congressional testimony Thursday, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer embraced Comey’s confirmation that Trump was not personally under investigation while soundly rejecting Comey’s more damning revelations.
Marc Kasowitz said that Comey’s testimony confirmed what Trump had alleged: that the president himself was not under investigation. But Kasowitz rejected Comey’s accounts of meetings with Trump in which the president asked Comey to pledge his loyalty to the president and asked Comey to “let go” of the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Comey’s prepared testimony, which was released ahead of Thursday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, confirmed Trump’s claim that the former FBI director told Trump at least three times the agency was not investigating the president. The testimony repeatedly referenced memos Comey created following his interactions with Trump in order to document what was said, because he feared the president “might lie about the nature of our meeting.”
Kasowitz said Comey’s testimony “makes clear the president never sought to impede the investigation into attempted Russian interference in the 2016 election.”
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“The president never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone, including suggesting that Mr. Comey ‘let Flynn go,’” Kasowitz said.
That conversation took place after Trump had fired Flynn for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov.
But Comey told Congress Thursday he took it “as a direction” when Trump told him during a Feb. 14 Oval Office meeting “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”
Kasowitz also slammed Comey for admitting he had allowed a friend to leak his memos to the press in hopes the revelations would spur appointment of a special counsel to the Russia investigation. Media reported the contents of Comey’s memos, and details of the meetings with Trump led to calls that the FBI needed an independent party to take over if the investigation were to be credible.
“Today, Mr. Comey admitted that he leaked to friends his purported memos of these privileged conversations, one of which he testified was classified,” Kasowitz said. “We will leave it to the appropriate authorities to determine whether this leaks should be investigated along with all those others being investigated.”
He alleged that Comey passing along the memos to a friend to give to media was “retaliatory,” presumably for his firing.
Republicans have repeatedly focused on the leaks coming out of the administration regarding the investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election, while Democrats have steered attention to reports Trump associates colluded with Moscow to elect him.
Trump said in a television interview he had Fired Comey because of the ongoing Russia investigation, which he has repeatedly called “fake news.” With Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused in the Russia probe, Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had the authority to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel.
During his remarks, Comey urged people to take his entire testimony as a whole and not to cherry pick favorable portions depending upon someone’s preferred narrative.
“I think people should look at the whole body of my testimony. Because as I used to say to juries when I talked about a witness: ‘You can’t cherry pick it. You can’t say I like these things he said, but on this he’s a dirty, rotten liar. You’ve got to take it all together,’” Comey said. “And I’ve tried to be open and fair and transparent and accurate.”
Kasowitz did not take questions following his prepared statement.