President Donald Trump broke his silence on the hearing with a 6:10 a.m. tweet on Friday, declaring that the nearly three hours of Senate testimony from the former FBI director the day before amounted to “total and complete vindication” of his actions.
Trump accused former FBI Director James B. Comey of lying under oath to Congress, saying he would gladly provide sworn testimony disputing the charge that the president forced him out because of his handling of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia.
A trending Twitter hashtag says #TrumpMustTestify, adding fuel to the number of skeptics calling his bluff since Trump said he is willing? to testify under oath.
Comey testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is investigating whether Trump’s campaign worked with Russia to influence the election and if there have been efforts to cover up such crimes and foreign meddling in the America’s democracy.
Comey said Trump’s administration spread “lies, plain and simple” and “defamed” him and the FBI.
Comey asserted Thursday that Trump fired him to interfere with a probe of Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign and revealed that he had orchestrated the public release of information about his private conversations with the president in an effort to further the investigation.
Comey portrayed the president as being dismissive of the FBI’s independence and told lawmakers that he interpreted Trump’s request to end an investigation into his former national security adviser as an order coming from the president.
Comey expressed confidence that special counsel Robert Mueller could evaluate the circumstances of his firing, but he declined to offer an opinion on whether Trump’s behavior constituted obstruction of justice.
“It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said toward the end of more than two hours of testimony before the Senate intelligence committee. “I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.
“That is a very big deal, and not just because it involves me.”
At one point he practically dared Trump to release any recordings of their conversations, a prospect the president once alluded to in a tweet.
“Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” Comey said, suggesting such evidence would back up his account over the president’s.
Thursday’s hearing was Comey’s first public appearance since his sudden May 9 firing and it brought much of the country to a standstill as Americans sat glued to their screens, harkening back to the Watergate congressional hearings that held the nation rapt some four decades earlier.
Trump also criticized Comey for his admission that he leaked information to the media in an effort to force the appointment of a special prosecutor to continue the probe into allegations of collusion during the 2016 election cycle between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials.
Comey’s scheme worked when another former FBI director, Robert Mueller, was named by the Justice Department to lead an independent probe.
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