Thursday, June 8, 2017
Trump Lawyer, Comey Made ‘UNAUTHORIZED DISCLOSURE’ of Privileged Talks
WASHINGTON — While President Trump stayed unusually silent on James Comey, his lawyer stressed Thursday that Comey's testimony proved that Trump did not collude with Russia during last year's election nor try to obstruct justice in the FBI investigation — and went on to accuse the former FBI director of directing unauthorized news leaks designed to damage the president.
Comey’s testimony, attorney Marc Kasowitz said, "makes clear that the president never sought to impede the investigation into attempted Russian interference in the 2016 election."
"And in fact, according to Mr. Comey, the president told Mr. Comey 'it would be good to find out” in that investigation if there were “some ‘satellite’ associates of his who did something wrong.'"
In attacking Comey's testimony — as Trump surrogates did throughout the day — Kasowitz said the ex-director "admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the president."
Trump's lawyer was referring to the memos Comey kept on conversations he had with the president.
In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey said he moved to make aspects of his contemporaneous memos public by enlisting a friend to share contents of his own notes with a reporter, after the president suggested in a tweet there might be secret recordings of his conversations with Comey.
Comey said he hoped news reports would prompt the appointment of a special counsel. Indeed, the Justice Department appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the Russia probe just one day after the existence of the memos was disclosed.
Yet Kasowitz said the New York Times reported on the memos before that presidential post. Calling Comey's action "retaliatory," Kasowitz said that "we will leave it the appropriate authorities to determine whether this leaks should be investigated along with all those others being investigated."
However, there is no evidence that the Times quoted from Comey memos before Trump tweeted about possible "tapes" of their conversations in a post dated May 12. The first Times story on the memos appeared May 16.
Trump himself discussed his "privileged conversations" with Comey during an interview with NBC News two days after his abrupt firing of the director on May 9.
Kasowitz's statement did not address Comey's testimony before the Senate panel that he kept notes out of concern that Trump might later lie about the nature of their conversations.
Comey said he began documenting his interactions with the president starting with his first meeting on Jan. 6 after a tense briefing at Trump Tower. “It was the subject matter and the person I was interacting with," he said. “It was the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned that he would lie about the nature of our meeting."
In the hearing, Comey also said Trump “defamed me and the FBI’’ after the president dismissed him last month. "Those were lies, plain and simple, and I am so sorry the FBI workforce had to hear them, and the American people were told them," Comey said.
White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders declined comment on the former FBI director's testimony in general on Thursday, but she did dispute one key theme: "I can definitely say the president is not a liar," Sanders said. "It’s frankly insulting that that question would be asked.”
Also, Sanders also said she has "no idea" if there is a taping system in the White House, after Comey testified that he would welcome the release of any tapes of conversations he had with Trump.
Critics of Trump, including Democratic lawmakers, said Comey's accounts and subsequent firing could add up to an effort by Trump to obstruct justice in an investigation of links between Trump campaign associates and Russians who tried to influence last year's election.
Comey said Trump repeatedly asked him to somehow resolve the Russia investigation, and pressed him to drop the inquiry into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
"He (Trump) described the Russia investigation as 'a cloud' that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country," Comey testified. Comey said he told the president that "we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well."
In his written statement defending Trump, Kasowitz said the president "never pressured Mr. Comey" into dropping the Russia investigation, and never sought a loyalty oath from the FBI director.
The attorney did say that "the Office of the President is entitled to expect loyalty from those who are serving in an administration," and that Trump has been betrayed by people leaking privileged information.
"It is now established that there the president was not being investigated for colluding with the or attempting to obstruct that investigation," Kasowitz said. "As the committee pointed out today, these important facts for the country to know are virtually the only facts that have not leaked during the long course of these events."
Trump watched parts of the hearing with top aides, including members of his legal team, in a private dining room at the White House.
He did not tweet about the Comey hearing, nor did he mention the testimony specifically during a midday speech to a group of religious conservatives. Trump did, however, tell supporters that "we're under siege," and "we will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever."
As of mid-day Thursday, it had been more than 30 hours since Trump last tweeted.
In his testimony, Comey also essentially confirmed the president's claim that on three occasions the FBI director told the president he was not personally under investigation – statements Comey said Trump urged him to make public.
In his written statement, Comey said the FBI and Justice Department believed there were a number of reasons not to make that kind of statement publicly, "most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change."
In addition to the Comey hearing, Trump has had what spokesman Sean Spicer called "a full day" of presidential activity on Thursday.
It included the midday speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority Conference, and a mid-afternoon meeting with a group of mayors and governors to discuss infrastructure plans.
Trump's focus, Spicer said, "is going to be on pursuing the agenda and the priorities that he was elected to do."