WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump claimed “total and complete vindication” the day after former FBI Director James Comey testified on Capitol Hill, tweeting his first response to the bombshell testimony after spending all of Thursday off his social media site of choice.
Trump’s comment tracks with Republican talking points about the hearing, where the Republican National Committee and White House urged surrogates to emphasize the fact Comey clearly said the president was never an explicit subject of the Russia probe during his time at the FBI.
But Comey’s testimony about the president was also damaging. The former FBI director said Trump’s private comments urging him to drop the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn led him to tell his Justice Department colleagues they needed to be careful.
And he said multiple times that he choose to take detailed notes about his interactions with Trump because he worried the White House and president would lie about them if he didn’t.
“Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication … and WOW, Comey is a leaker!” Trump tweeted Friday morning.
Trump fired Comey in May, setting off a series of events that eventually led the career law enforcement official to sit before senators on Thursday.
And Friday’s message on Twitter was the president, in effect, accusing Comey of perjury because the former FBI director was under oath during the Senate intelligence committee hearing.
The White House initially blamed Comey’s firing on the way he handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation during the 2016 election.
But once that excuse fell apart, Trump himself said he fired the former FBI director over the FBI probe. That, Comey said, worried him.
“It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said. “I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”
Republicans, who have been pushing the need to punish leakers for months, have also jumped on the fact Comey provided the content of memos regarding meetings between himself and the president to a friend, who then disseminated the information to the media.
Trump’s outside lawyer insisted Thursday that it was Comey who lied when he detailed conversations between himself and the president, raising the accusation that Comey committed perjury while testifying under oath.
Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s recently hired outside counsel, slammed Comey for “unilaterally and surreptitiously” disseminating the content of his conversations with Trump, arguing that information was “privileged.”
A number of legal scholars disagree with Kasowitz’s assessment, including John Dean, who served as White House counsel in the Nixon administration.
“This is not privileged information,” Dean said bluntly.
Trump’s top aides and advisers successfully kept the president off Twitter during the Comey hearing, something they told reporters they were hoping to do.
Trump was asked about Comey’s testimony multiple times during a meeting with governors and mayors, but ignored all the questions.
The president will likely be asked directly about the former FBI director’s testimony on Friday, when he takes formal questions for the first time in three weeks during a joint news conference in the Rose Garden with Romanian President Klaus Iohanni.