Donald Trump calls Comey a 'leaker' in first response to Senate testimony
Donald Trump on Friday branded his former FBI director a “leaker”, a day after James Comey gave testimony in which he accused the president of trying to quash an investigation and lying about him and the FBI.
“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 appeared to be accusing Comey of lying to Congress, a crime punishable by five years in jail, though convictions are extremely rare. In response, one Democratic senator, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, tweeted “this is not just another silly tweet … it is essential for our country that the president offer his testimony to Congress about what exactly happened.”
Comey, who was fired by Trump on 9 May, spoke for nearly three hours, answering questions about investigations of links between Trump aides and Russia, and the president’s attitude to them.
It was a packed hearing which brought much of the US to a standstill. The president reportedly watched some of the hearing with his lawyers, then spoke to a conservative Christian audience at a Faith and Freedom summit, without mentioning events on Capitol Hill.
In the hearing, Comey branded Trump a liar and said he believed he had been sacked because of the FBI’s investigation into Moscow’s meddling in last year’s presidential election. His evidence did not deliver a knock-out blow to the Trump presidency, but it nevertheless cast the billionaire Republican’s integrity in a withering light.
Comey said of his own dismissal: “The administration chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying that the organisation was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader.
“Those were lies, plain and simple, and I’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry the American people were told them.”
He told the panel: “It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted. That is a very big deal.”
Comey also revealed he had asked a friend, from the law department of Columbia University, to leak to the New York Times details of his memo about a meeting with Trump “because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel”.
Former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel on 17 May.
In his testimony, Comey explained that he documented each meeting with Trump because he thought the president might be dishonest about what had taken place – a practice he never felt obliged to undertake when meeting former presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama.
“I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document,” he said of their first conversation at Trump Tower in New York in January.
After the hearing, Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz delivered a statement to the press in which he said the FBI director had “admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorised disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the president”.
On Friday, Trump is due to face the media in a scheduled a joint news conference with the Romanian president, Klaus Iohannis.
He issued a second tweet just before 7am. Suggesting which morning show he might have been watching on television, the president wrote: “Great reporting by @foxandfriends and so many others. Thank you!”