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Sunday 26 January 2020

Donald Trump: I'll testify under oath about lying ex-FBI director James Comey

President Donald Trump has hit back over the James Comey testimony (AP)
President Donald Trump has hit back over the James Comey testimony (AP)

US president Donald Trump has accused fired FBI director James Comey of lying to Congress and said he was "100%" willing to testify under oath about their conversations.

Mr Trump refused to say whether those private exchanges were taped, a matter at the heart of the conflicting accounts of what passed between them.

It concerns a time when Mr Comey was leading an FBI investigation into Russia's interference in the presidential election and its ties to the Trump campaign.

He asserted that nothing in Mr Comey's testimony to the Senate pointed to collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice. "Yesterday showed no collusion, no obstruction," Mr Trump said.

He further denied ever asking Mr Comey for his "loyalty", contradicting Mr Comey's detailed sworn testimony about a private dinner in the White House.

"No, I didn't say that," Mr Trump stated abruptly, taking questions on Friday at a joint press conference with Romanian president Klaus Iohannis in the Rose Garden.

Asked if he would make that denial under oath, he said: "100%."

Mr Trump's aides have dodged questions about whether conversations relevant to the Russia investigation have been recorded, and so did the president in a series of teases.

"Well, I'll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future," he said.

He insisted he was not "hinting anything", before adding: "Oh, you're going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer, don't worry."

The House intelligence committee has asked White House counsel Don McGahn whether any tape recordings or memos of Mr Comey's conversations with the president exist now or had existed.

The committee also sent a letter to Mr Comey asking for any notes or memos about the discussions he had with Mr Trump before being abruptly fired last month.

Mr Comey told the Senate intelligence committee on Thursday about several one-on-one interactions with the president, during which he said Mr Trump pressed him to show "loyalty".

Mr Tump wanted him to back off on the FBI investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and to disclose that the president himself was not under investigation, Mr Comey said.

He said he refused on all points, told senators of the detailed memos he had written after his conversations with Mr Trump and said he hoped they were taped because he is confident of their veracity.

Standing with the president of Romania, Mr Trump at last confirmed his commitment to the Nato alliance's mutual defence pact, Article 5, uttering words he deliberately did not say when he spoke at its gathering in Belgium last month.

He said he was "committing the United States to Article 5".

The president had previewed his attacks against Mr Comey in an early-morning tweet that broke his previous day's silence on his favourite social media megaphone.

"Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication," Mr Trump wrote. It was a stunning accusation, suggesting that the former FBI director had lied to Congress, while under oath.

He also seized on Mr Comey's revelation that he had directed a friend to release contents of memos he'd written documenting his conversations with the president to a reporter.

"...and WOW, Comey is a leaker!" Mr Trump wrote at 6.10am. He derisively repeated the "leaker" moniker to reporters in the Rose Garden.

Mr Trump's private attorney, Marc Kasowitz, seized on Mr Comey's admission that he had orchestrated the public release of the information.

Mr Kasowitz is expected to file a complaint with the Justice Department inspector general next week.

Senator Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, and senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on it, both said they believed Mr Comey's account.

"And I think you saw today the overwhelming majority of the intel members, Democrats and Republicans, feel that Jim Comey is credible.

"Even folks who have been his critics don't question his integrity, his commitment to the rule of law and his intelligence," Mr Warner said.


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