WASHINGTON — As former FBI Director James Comey was wrapping up his testimony on Capitol Hill, President Trump was telling the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference today that “we’re under siege, you understand that, but we will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever.”
“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,” Trump said. “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 tells 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.”
The president didn’t mention Comey, disappointing patrons at the Union Pub in D.C. who were promised a free round of drinks for every tweet about Comey issued by Trump during the hearing. Donald Trump Jr. picked up the tweeting duty instead, and the White House left the rapid “war room” responses up to the Republican National Committee.
At a photo session during a White House infrastructure summit later, Trump did not respond when a reporter asked, “Any reaction to Comey’s testimony? Do you think he told the truth?”
Again, the RNC stepped in, echoing Trump’s May remarks calling the recently fired FBI chief a “showboat” and “grandstander.”
“Today’s testimony proved what we have known all along: President Trump is not under investigation, there’s still no evidence of collusion, and he did not hinder the investigations in any way,” said RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel. “Nobody thinks more of James Comey than James Comey, and his testimony today was simply a last ditch attempt to save face with the American people.”
The White House has been referring Russia probe questions to Trump’s outside attorney, Marc Kasowitz, who delivered a statement at the National Press Club after the Comey hearing. “As he said yesterday, the president feels completely vindicated and is eager to continue moving forward with his agenda, with the business of this country, and with this public cloud removed,” Kasowitz said.
On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared “the ‘cloud’ hanging over this administration,” as Comey said Trump called the Russia investigation, “has just gotten a whole lot darker.”
In May, Trump tweeted: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversation before he starts leaking to the press!”
“All I can do is hope,” Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee today. “The president knows whether or not he tapes me. If he did, I’m not offended. Release the tapes.”
Asked today if White House conversations are recorded, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she had “no idea” before quipping, “Sure, I’ll try to look under the couches.”
Schumer called it “awfully curious that no one from the president’s team will either confirm or deny the existence of those tapes, when the tapes are the only way to prove that Mr. Comey’s testimony, which came under oath, was false or misleading.”
“We need to know the answer to a number of questions regarding the attorney general,” Schumer said of Comey’s testimony that he couldn’t share the reasons in an open hearing for Jeff Sessions needing to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. “The Senate Intelligence Committee investigation and special counsel Mueller ought to get to the bottom of this matter.”
“In conclusion, Mr. Comey’s testimony has been very enlightening, but there is much work ahead for investigators in Congress and those under the direction of Mr. Mueller.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said the most “shocking” part of Comey’s testimony was Trump’s alleged disinterest shown to the former FBI director about Russia’s operation intended to influence the U.S. presidential campaign.
“It was stunning to hear the former FBI director testify under oath today that President Trump ‘defamed’ him and the Bureau and told lies about them, and that Director Comey began writing contemporaneous memos after their first meeting because he was concerned the president may lie about the interaction,” Gillibrand said. “Even more shocking was his testimony that President Trump didn’t have any conversations with him about how a foreign government interfered in our election at a time when Russia ‘is coming after America’.”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, declared it to be “overall a good day.”
“Obviously there are some things that are still concerning. Republicans are taking this serious. We’ve offered more supports on this particular thing than we did the entire Benghazi investigation where we lost four Americans,” he told CNN. “So it’s critically important that we stay tuned, but we also don’t jump to conclusions.”