President Trump has been caught exaggerating and lying multiple times. But in what may be his biggest lie yet, Trump continues to insist that when James Comey still headed the FBI he told the President three separate times that he was not a target of the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
If Trump is being truthful, then Comey violated his duty as head of the FBI by improperly disclosing details of an on-going investigation. Those who know Comey well insist he would never have done that.
“Mr. Comey’s associates also denied the claim made by Mr. Trump, in his letter firing Mr. Comey, that the director told him on three occasions that he wasn’t under investigation,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “They said Mr. Comey never gave Mr. Trump any such guidance, which would violate longstanding politics on criminal investigations. ‘That is literally farcical,” said one associate.”
US News reported several former Justice Department officials and federal prosecutors doubted James Comey would have told Trump if he was the target of the investigation or offered him any assurances at all.
“Comey would not ever, in my opinion, say this to Trump,” said Peter Zeidenberg, who was a prosecutor for the Justice Departments public integrity unit, according to US News. “It is an ongoing investigation; there is no possible way Comey could a)know that Trump was cleared of any misconduct at this stage of the investigation and b) it would be inappropriate for the FBI director – or any agent – to advise a potential subject of an investigation of their status directly.”
“That self-serving assertion was completely implausible,” wrote Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, who served in the Obama Justice Department. “To put it bluntly, it appears to have been a blatant lie.”
Tribe added that “it would have violated well-established DOJ rules and policies for the director to offer any such assurance to anyone, especially the president.”
Tribe said offering that assurance to Trump in order to retain his job would have been highly unethical and, adds Tribe, “at odds with Comey’s reputation as a man of integrity.”
The new acting director of the FBI refused to answer the question of whether Comey told that to Trump in a hearing before Congress yesterday, and Comey himself has not said. Comey may be asked about it next Tuesday when he testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee as a private citizen.
However, Trump has not been shy about re-stating the claims he made in the letter, which was crucial to his defense in firing Comey. If he is under investigation, then firing the FBI Director would be inappropriate, if not illegal. It was in that letter to protect Trump from such consequences.
TRUMP says he was going to fire Comey regardless of recommendation—says he asked Comey if he was under investigation https://t.co/TKDralbLzJ
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) May 11, 2017
Trump today told Lester Holt in an interview with NBC News that it happened as he said, and he provides the first details of when and how he was told he wasn’t a target.
“I actually asked him” if I was under investigation,” Trump told Holt.
Trump said he was told that during a dinner with Comey early in his administration and twice more in phone calls between the two.
“I said if it’s possible would you let me know, ‘Am I under investigation?’ He said, ‘you are not under investigation,'” Trump told NBC News.
Trump said he also knew from other sources close to the Senate investigation that he was not the target, and it was proven by the fact he has not been asked to provide documents that might relate to that.
Among those anxious to get to the truth about whether Comey violated his ethical duties in telling Trump if he was a target, and whether is Trump is lying, are the heads of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Diane Feinstein ((D-Ca).
The FBI “should confirm to the public whether it is or is not investigating the president,” Grassley said in a prepared statement for the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Because it has failed to make this clear, speculation has run rampant.”
FBI Dir Comey needs to be transparent + tell the public what he told me about whether he is or is not investigating @POTUS
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) March 20, 2017
Grassley and Feinstein were briefed previlusly by Comey about the investigation. Now Grassley is calling on Comey to make public what he told them.
“When it comes to the president and senior government officials,” added Grassley, “the American people deserve to know if senior government officials are under active criminal or intelligence investigation.”
The president’s credibility and possibly his job may depend on ferreting out the truth about what Comey told Trump.
If past performance is an indication, Comey is not likely to have violated the FBI ethical code and said any such thing. And Trump is likely to be lying once again.
This time his presidency may hinge on the truth.