The Republican National Committee (RNC) is defending President Trump following the release of former FBI Director James Comey’s seven-page testimony Wednesday. While Comey is set to sit before before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday and read the statement, the RNC has quickly rallied to say that Comey’s testimony backs up Trump’s assertion that Comey told him, on three occasions, he was not under FBI investigation.
As Washington DC dissects Comey’s written statement, which details multiple encounters between Comey and President Trump, the RNC points out an aspect of Comey’s testimony they don’t want overlooked. Mainly, that the Russian meddling investigation is not centered on President Trump.
“President Trump was right,” said RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. “Director Comey’s statement reconfirmed what the president has been saying all along — he was never under investigation.”
Michael Ahrens, the RNC rapid response director, tweeted a similar message to his followers.
NEW: Comey told Trump 3 times he was not under investigationhttps://t.co/4at24CrNZC
— Michael Ahrens (@michael_ahrens) June 7, 2017
According to the newly released statement, Comey describes three instances when he told the president he was not being investigated.
The first time, Comey was trying to determine what he should tell the President Trump during a Jan. 6 briefing. Comey writes:
“I discussed with the FBI’s leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.”
Then, during a Jan. 27 dinner, Comey says Trump talked about ordering an investigation into the origins of an unverified Russian dossier. Comey recalls, “I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative.”
Finally, on a March 30 phone call with the president, Comey apparently told President Trump that the FBI was “not personally investigating” him.
As explanation for not making a public statement about Trump’s relationship to the investigation, Comey wrote:
“I did not tell the president that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.”
Some skeptics don’t think Comey’s statement was meant to validate the president.
“Ironically, the document makes perfectly clear that Trump was aware that the investigation was touching people close to him in the campaign and his company, and that he was perfectly willing [to] throw these people under bus if need be,” writes Benjamin Wittes in his Lawfare blog. Wittes, who is reportedly an ally of Comey’s, continued ,“Put simply, this emphatically does not amount to Trump’s blanket statement that he was assured multiple times that he was not under investigation.
Paraphrasing the letter Trump wrote Comey when he dismissed him on May 9, Wittes continued:
“Trump might have been on solid ground in his letter firing Comey had he written that ‘I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that none of the investigations involving my campaign, my subordinates, or my companies at the present time involves an open counterintelligence case directed at me personally.’ Somehow, however, that lacks the self-exculpating ring the president seems to have been going for.”
What Trump actually wrote was the following:
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to lead the bureau.”
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