WASHINGTON: U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday denied he tried to interfere with an FBI investigation, effectively accusing James Comey, the FBI’s former director, of lying under oath to Congress.
Comey delivered scathing remarks about the president on Thursday at a congressional hearing and testified that Trump had asked him to drop a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into former aide Michael Flynn and his alleged ties to Russia.
Trump said Comey’s testimony also vindicated him from allegations that he colluded with Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said. And some of the things that he said just weren’t true,” Trump said at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden.
Asked by a reporter if he had told Comey to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Flynn, Trump said, “I didn’t say that.”
The reporter then asked, “So he lied about that?”
“Well, I didn’t say that. I mean, I will tell you, I didn’t say that,” Trump replied. “And there would be nothing wrong if I did say it according to everybody that I’ve read today, but I did not say that,” he said.
In his testimony, Comey also said Trump asked him in January to pledge loyalty to the president, an unusual request that would put in doubt the independence of the FBI.
Trump’s offer to testify under oath would pit his word against Comey’s before federal investigators.
If either Trump’s testimony or memos written by Comey about his conversations with the president turn out to be untrue, either man could be charged with lying to federal investigators.
A U.S. president is given a wide array of immunities from criminal prosecutions. The U.S. Constitution does not directly address whether the president can be criminally prosecuted, and the area is the subject of legal debate. A president can be charged after leaving office.
Trump wrote earlier on Friday on Twitter that the former FBI head 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, Trump also castigated Comey as “a leaker” for giving an account of his conversation with the president to a law professor who shared it with a news outlet.
“Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication … and WOW, Comey is a leaker!” Trump tweeted.