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Trump calls ex-FBI director James Comey a ‘leaker’ after testimony

James Comey accused Donald Trump of trying to block an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

world Updated: Jun 11, 2017 19:17 IST
Yashwant Raj
Former FBI director James Comey is sworn in during a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Former FBI director James Comey is sworn in during a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.(AFP Photo)

US President Donald Trump has claimed “total and complete vindication” in former FBI James Comey’s testimony that his detractors insisted showed he had tried “improperly” to stop and “potentially obstruct” the investigation into his then NSA Michael Flynn’s Russia dealings.

In a blunt and dramatic three-hour testimony before the senate intelligence committee on Thursday, Comey called Trump a “liar” multiple times and said he had asked him to drop the Flynn probe but repeated, in oral and written submissions, that the president was never under investigation personally.

That was probably the president’s reason to feel vindicated. “Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication,” Trump wrote on Twitter Friday morning in his first public response to the hearing, adding, in the same post, “and WOW, Comey is a leaker!”

The former FBI director had admitted to releasing his memos — notes of his conversations with Trump — he said “my judgment was I needed to get that out in the public square so I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter … (also) because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel”.

The memos were not classified as secret and their release could not be called a “leak” in the strictest sense of the word, but the president and his outside layer Marc Kasowitz have sought to portray it as such based on Comey’s own admission. “Today, Mr. Comey admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the President,” Kasowitz said in a statement after the hearing went to characterize them as “leaks”.

Kasowitz, who has been a personal lawyer to Trump for years, also explained the vindication claimed by Trump in the Tweet. “In sum,” he said in the statement, “it is now established that the President was not being investigated for colluding with the Russians or attempting to obstruct that investigation.”

Trump is not a subject of any investigation indeed. But his critics and detractors found enough reasons in Comey’s testimony to allege the president might have crossed the line, leaving himself open to charges of obstructing an ongoing investigation into his former NSA Flynn.

“In my view, this testimony constitutes evidence of an intention to interfere or potentially obstruct at least a portion of the Russia investigation, if not more,” Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee which is conducting a parallel Russia probe, wrote in a statement.

When asked by a senator at the hearing if the president’s request to Comey to “let this go”, in reference to the Flynn probe, amounted to obstructing justice, the former FBI director said, “I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there, and whether that’s an offense.”

For Preet Bharara, the US attorney sacked by Trump after being asked to continue, the Trump’s request on Flynn was the key issue. “Main Comey hearing takeaway: POTUS (short for president of the United States) improperly said drop Flynn case & only refutation is 2nd-hand, error-filled stmt from paid atty Kasowitz,” he wrote in a Tweet.

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US President Donald Trump called James Comey a “leaker” on Friday, the day after his former FBI director accused him in congressional testimony of trying to quash an investigation and lying.

“Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication ... and WOW, Comey is a leaker!” Trump tweeted in his first comments since the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday.

Trump broke his silence on Comey’s testimony with a single tweet that echoed the points made by his private lawyer after Comey’s appearance: The Republican president himself was not under investigation, and Comey gave an account of his conversation with him to a lawyer friend who shared it with a news outlet.

Trump stopped short of saying that Comey lied under oath at the hearing, which occurred a month after Trump fired him on May 9.

Comey delivered a scathing indictment of his former boss, accusing him of trying to block an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and saying the White House defamed him and the FBI in trying to explain his dismissal.

He told the Senate panel he took meticulous notes of each meeting or conversation he had with Trump because “I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document.”