US President Donald Trump has hit out at former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey, accusing him of lying to Congress in testimony last week over his handling of the Russia probe.
“Leakin’ James Comey must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day. His Friday testimony was so untruthful! This whole deal is a Rigged Fraud headed up by dishonest people who would do anything so that I could not become President. They are now exposed!”
Trump’s attack on Comey’s credibility comes as he himself is under intensifying pressure from federal investigators.
In a court filing on Friday, federal prosecutors in New York tied the president to felony campaign violations in the form of hush payments to two women who alleged past sexual encounters with the then Republican presidential candidate.
Comey testified the same day before two House committees.
A transcript released on Saturday shows he strongly defended his investigators against Republican charges of bias against Trump and in favour of Democrat Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.
Comey revealed that the initial counter-intelligence investigation into Russia election meddling was opened on four individuals – but not Trump – to see if any of them were conspiring with the Russians to sway the elections.
“We opened investigations on four Americans to see if there was any connection between those four Americans and the Russian interference effort,” he said.
Comey did not identify the four, and declined to answer other questions that went into matters under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and other federal prosecutors.
But in his tweets, Trump portrayed Comey’s testimony as dishonest and evasive, enumerating the times he told House investigators that he didn’t know or couldn’t recall things he was asked about.
“On 245 occasions, former FBI Director James Comey told House investigators he didn’t know, didn’t recall, or couldn’t remember things when asked. Opened investigations on 4 Americans (not 2) – didn’t know who signed off and didn’t know Christopher Steele. All lies!”
Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have often accused Comey of shielding Clinton from prosecution in a probe of her use of a private e-mail server while secretary of state, while using a dossier on Russia election meddling compiled by Steele, a former British spy, to go after Trump’s campaign.
Peter Strzok, a key investigator in both Comey-directed probes, was fired earlier this year for sending text messages critical of Trump to an FBI lawyer that he was having an affair with.
In his testimony on Friday, Comey strongly defended Strzok against the charges of bias, the transcript shows.
Strzok “was one of the handful of people in the entire world who knew we were investigating four Americans who had some connection to Mr Trump during the summer of 2016, and he didn’t tell a soul”, Comey said.
“So it’s hard to reconcile that with his being on Team Clinton. It’s hard to reconcile his not leaking that Trump associates were under investigation and his drafting of a letter to Congress on October 28th that Secretary Clinton believed hurt her chances of being elected,” he said.
Trump fired Comey in May 2017 after taking office in January of that year.
Shortly after Comey’s dismissal, the Department of Justice named a special counsel to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow.
Russia has denied any interference.
Trump denies there was any collusion and on Saturday renewed his call to end the special counsel’s investigation, calling it a “witch hunt”.
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