Sunday 17 December 2017

'I'll 100pc testify on Comey claims' - Trump

Acquanetta Warren, Mayor of Fontana, California, reacts after US President Donald Trump introduced himself before the Infrastructure Summit with governors and mayors at the White House in Washington yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Acquanetta Warren, Mayor of Fontana, California, reacts after US President Donald Trump introduced himself before the Infrastructure Summit with governors and mayors at the White House in Washington yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Steve Holland Washington

US President Donald Trump yesterday denied accusations by former FBI director James Comey that he tried to block an investigation into a former national security adviser, adding that he was willing to give his version of events under oath.

Asked by a reporter if he had told Mr Comey to drop a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into former top aide Michael Flynn, Mr Trump said, "I didn't say that".

Former FBI director James Comey testifies before a hearing on Thursday. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
Former FBI director James Comey testifies before a hearing on Thursday. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Mr Comey, who was fired by Mr Trump in May, delivered a scathing indictment of the president on Thursday at a congressional hearing in which he accused Mr Trump of trying to block the investigation into Mr Flynn.

Mr Comey also said Mr Trump asked him in January to pledge loyalty to the president, an unusual request that would put in doubt the independence of the FBI.

"I hardly know the man. I'm not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance. Who would do that?" Mr Trump said at a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

Asked if he would be willing to go under oath to give his version of the interactions with Mr Comey, Mr Trump replied, "100 percent".

He said he would be happy to speak to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating allegations that Russia interfered with the 2016 US presidential election and colluded with Mr Trump's campaign.

"I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you," Mr Trump told a reporter.

In the congressional hearing, Mr Comey testified that Mr Trump told him on January 26 that he expected loyalty from the FBI director and the next month urged him to drop the probe into Mr Flynn, the president's former security adviser.

Mr Trump wrote earlier yesterday on Twitter that the former FBI director had vindicated him by telling the Senate Intelligence Committee that the president had not been personally under investigation in the Russia probe.

With a single tweet, Mr Trump also castigated Mr Comey for giving an account of his conversation with the president to a lawyer who shared it with a news outlet.

"Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication ... and WOW, Comey is a leaker!" Mr Trump tweeted in his first comments since Mr Comey's hearing.

Mr Trump stopped short of saying Mr Comey lied under oath. Mr Comey's testimony added fuel to critics' accusations that Mr Trump's actions around the Russia probe might have amounted to obstruction of justice.

In the hearing, Mr Comey did not disclose any links between Trump advisers and alleged Russian meddling.

Russia has denied such interference. The White House has denied collusion with Moscow.

Mr Comey told the Senate panel he took meticulous notes of each meeting or conversation he had with Mr 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".

Mr Comey testified that Mr Trump told him on January 26 he expected loyalty from the FBI director and the next month urged him to drop the Flynn probe. "I hope you can let this go," Mr Comey reported the president as saying in a February 14 meeting.

Mr Trump's personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, disputed both statements after the hearing, essentially pitting the two accounts against each other.

Asked yesterday which version she would believe, Republican US Senator Susan Collins said it was possible Mr Comey misremembered or misinterpreted some of their exchanges.

"But he testified under oath and I do believe that he's an individual of integrity who would not deliberately lie under oath," Ms Collins told CNN. "I tend to place more credence in testimony that's given under oath."

The Russia issue has cast a shadow over the early months of Mr Trump's presidency. Mr Comey's firing on May 9 set off a political firestorm, raising suspicions among Democrats and others that the White House was trying to blunt the probe.

Mr Comey told the Senate panel that he shared an unclassified memo about his February conversation with Mr Trump about Mr Flynn because he hoped it would lead to the appointment of a special counsel. After news reports in mid-May about the conversation, the Justice Department did just this, appointing Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, to oversee the Russia probe.

Irish Independent

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