The tweet included a picture of the Great Falls of the Potomac. Comey explained hours later that he included the picture because he likes it and it reminded him of his favorite Bible verse. Quoting Amos 5:24, he said, “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
The tweets may seem innocuous to someone who had not been following the news of the past couple days. But they came just hours after President Trump resurrected his attacks against Comey during a trip to Asia. Speaking with reporters in the press cabin on Air Force One on Saturday, Trump called Comey a proven “liar” and “leaker,” as he seemed to take Russian President Vladimir Putin’s word that he didn’t meddle in last year’s U.S. presidential election.
Comey had testified in Congress that Trump asked him to drop an investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russian officials. He, along with former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and former CIA director John Brennan, issued a report in January describing an unprecedented Russian intelligence operation to undermine the U.S. democratic process and help elect Trump. The report, which was issued on behalf of the 17-agency intelligence community, did not address whether the interference affected the outcome of the election.
In talking to reporters about his brief conversations with Putin during a larger meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Danang, Vietnam, Trump said he believed Putin was “sincere” in his denials, while calling former U.S. intelligence officials, including Clapper and Brennan, “political hacks.”
“He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump said. “I asked him again. You can only ask so many times . . . He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they were saying he did.”
At one point, he also said: “I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey . . . So you look at that and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with them.”
Responding to questions about Trump’s comments, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said he “stands by and has always stood by” the intelligence community’s findings, which have not changed since Clapper, Brennan and Comey issued the January report.
Clapper and Brennan, who jointly appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, were more blunt in their responses to Trump’s comments. Both men said the president is dangerously playing down Russia’s threat to U.S. democracy and suggested that Putin is playing Trump.
Brennan said Trump’s refusal to acknowledge Russia’s meddling in the elections demonstrates that he can be manipulated by foreign leaders who “appeal to his ego and try to play upon his insecurities.” Clapper agreed, saying Trump is “very susceptible to rolling out the red carpet and honor guards and all the trappings and pomp and circumstance that come with the office.”
Brennan also said that Trump attacked them to try to “delegitimize” the findings of the intelligence agencies.
Speaking at a news conference Sunday in Hanoi, Trump said he stands with intelligence agencies on their findings. He also clarified his earlier remarks that he takes Putin’s word.
“What I said is that I believe [Putin] believes that,” he said.
Ashley Parker, David Nakamura and Karen DeYoung contributed to this article.