WASHINGTON (AP) - While President Trump stayed unusually silent on James Comey, his lawyer stressed Thursday that the former FBI director testified that the president is not under investigation for collusion with Russia during last year's election.
"Mr. Comey’s testimony also makes clear that the President never sought to impede the investigation into attempted Russian interference in the 2016 election," his attorney Marc Kasowitz said.
"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.'"
Kasowitz also said in a written statement that "the President likewise never pressured Mr. Comey" into dropping the Russia investigation, and never sought a loyalty oath from the FBI director.
And the president's lawyer added that Comey "admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the President." Kasowitz was referring to the memos Comey kept on conversations he had with the president.
"In sum," the lawyer said, "it is now established that there the President was not being investigated for colluding with the or attempting to obstruct that investigation. 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."
White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders declined comment on the former FBI director's testimony on Thursday, deferring instead to Kasowitz's statement, but she did dispute one aspect of Comey's testimony.
"I can definitely say the president is not a liar," Sanders said. "It’s frankly insulting that that question would be asked.”
In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, 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."
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.
As Comey testified that he would welcome the release of any tapes of conversations he had with Trump, Sanders also said she has "no idea" if there is a taping system in the White House.
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."
Critics of Trump, including Democratic lawmakers, said Comey's accounts 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 described the Russia investigation as 'a cloud' that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country," Comey wrote.
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."
Supporters of Trump noted that 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.
"The President is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the President was not under investigation in any Russian probe," Kasowitz had said after the release of the written statement on Wednesday. "The President feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda."
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 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."
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