President Trump might not have live-tweeted James B. Comey's testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, but he has spoken out a few times since, including at a Friday afternoon news conference. In some moments, he has attacked; in others, he has quoted scripture in an apparent effort to project serenity.
Below, I have ranked everything Trump has said about the testimony, from the most directly confrontational statements to the least.
1. Willing to go under oath
“One. Hundred. Percent.”
Asked by ABC's Jonathan Karl at Friday's news conference whether he would be willing to dispute Comey's testimony under oath, Trump said yes and even threw in a couple of dramatic pauses for effect.
Translation: Bring. It. On.
2. Twitter silence broken
Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication...and WOW, Comey is a leaker!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2017
As is often the case, Trump was at his fiery best on Twitter on Friday morning.
What are these “false statements and lies”? Well, Trump's outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz, disputed two major factual claims by Comey on Thursday. Kasowitz said, “The president never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone, including suggesting that Mr. Comey ‘let Flynn go.’” Kasowitz added that “the president also never told Mr. Comey, 'I need loyalty, I expect loyalty' in form or substance.”
By “total and complete vindication,” Trump appeared to mean that Comey confirmed telling the president on three occasions that the FBI was not investigating Trump personally.
“Comey is a leaker” referred to Comey's revelation that he directed the disclosure of an unclassified personal memo to the New York Times.
3. No pledge of allegiance
“I hardly know the man. I'm not going to say 'I want you to pledge allegiance.' Who would do that? … It doesn't make sense.”
At the news conference Friday, Trump not only denied seeking a loyalty pledge from Comey but also characterized the idea as completely ridiculous.
Trump's logic seems backward. If he knew Comey well, Trump presumably would not have to ask for loyalty. He already would know whether he could count on Comey's allegiance. It makes more sense to inquire about the loyalty of a person you do not know well because you are trying to evaluate his trustworthiness.
Flawed or not, Trump's statement was an aggressive dismissal of Comey's claim.
4. 'Didn't say that'
KARL: You said you hoped the Flynn investigation …
TRUMP: I didn't say that.
KARL: So, he lied about that?
TRUMP: Well, I didn't say that. I mean I will tell you I didn't say that. And there'd be nothing wrong if I did say it, according to everybody that I've read today, but I did not say that.
Trump denied telling Comey to drop the FBI's investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, but he was surprisingly unwilling to call Comey's claim a lie at Friday's news conference, even though he had used the L word in a tweet earlier in the day.
5. Focused on running the country
“No collusion. No obstruction. He's a leaker. But we want to get back to running our great country. … Yesterday showed no collusion, no obstruction. We are doing really well. That was an excuse by the Democrats, who lost an election that some people think they shouldn't have lost. … We were very, very happy, and frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said. And some of the things that he said just weren't true.”
Trump kept accusations to a minimum in this portion of his remarks at the news conference Friday. He even did the presidential thing by saying he wanted to turn his focus back to governing.
6. Props to Fox News
Great reporting by @foxandfriends and so many others. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2017
Talk of Comey's leak dominated the Fox News morning show Friday. Trump, a dedicated viewer of “Fox & Friends,” seemed to be thanking the hosts for focusing on that element of Comey's testimony.
7. A confusing argument
We should stop talking about obstruction of justice. No plausible case. We must distinguish crimes from pol sins https://t.co/Us4QKJB55M
— Alan Dershowitz (@AlanDersh) June 9, 2017
Trump retweeted this tweet by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz on Friday morning. It was a curious move, for a couple of reasons.
Although Dershowitz argued that Trump is not guilty of obstructing justice, he also said the president committed a political “sin.” It is odd that Trump would concede the latter.
What's more, Dershowitz contended that Trump had every right to tell Comey to drop the FBI's investigation of Flynn. That is an argument which, if valid, could help keep Trump out of legal trouble. But, remember, the position of Trump's lawyer is that the president “never … directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone.”
8. Going biblical
“We recite today the words of Isaiah, Chapter 1, Verse 17: 'Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.'
“The entrenched interests and failed, bitter voices in Washington will do everything in their power to try and stop us from this righteous cause, to try to stop all of you. They will lie. They will obstruct. They will spread their hatred and their prejudice.
“But we will not back down from doing what is right. Because, as the Bible tell us, we know that the truth will prevail, that God’s glorious wisdom will shine through, and that the good and decent people of this country will get the change they voted for and that they so richly deserve. Nothing worth doing ever came easy, but we know how to fight better than anybody.”
Speaking Thursday at a Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, Trump appeared to make an oblique reference to Comey's testimony when he talked about “entrenched interests” that “will lie.”
Comey was a holdover from the Obama administration, and the Trump White House has complained about a “deep state” of career government workers, such as the former FBI director, who are supposedly undermining the new president.
Trump's promise that “the good and decent people of this country will get the change they voted for” was a clear declaration that he will remain in office to implement his agenda. Translation: There is no way I am going to be impeached, based on Comey's testimony.