WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s lawyer said he denies ever pressuring former FBI Director James Comey to pledge his personal loyalty or to drop an investigation of his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and accused Comey of undermining Trump’s administration.
The lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, said Comey had revealed himself as part of a group of people in the government “who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications,” by acknowledging he asked a friend to tell a reporter the contents of a memo he wrote documenting a conversation with Trump.
Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday in his first public appearance since Trump fired him on May 9. He said he had documented his conversations with Trump in memos because he was concerned the president would lie about them. He told the panel he asked a friend to release a memo on a meeting in which Trump suggested he drop the Flynn investigation after Trump threatened on Twitter to release “tapes” of their conversations after firing him.
Kasowitz issued his statement first by email, with uncorrected typographical errors, and later in a verbal statement delivered at the National Press Club in Washington. He took no questions.
“Mr. Comey admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the president,” Kasowitz said. He didn’t describe in what way the conversation was privileged.
Comey said he hoped the release of his memo would result in the appointment of a special counsel to oversee an FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The New York Times first reported on the memo May 16, and former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel on May 17.
Kasowitz described Comey’s testimony — in which the former FBI chief said he felt Trump had directed him to drop the Flynn investigation — as exonerating the president.
“In sum, it is now established that the president was not being investigated for colluding with or attempting to obstruct that investigation,” Kasowitz said in his written statement. “These important facts for the country to know are virtually the only facts that have not been leaked during the course of these events.”
“The president feels completely vindicated,” Kasowitz added when he stepped before the cameras.
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