ANALYSIS: Trump vindicated? President gets from Comey what he wanted all along

President Trump "feels completely and totally vindicated," his attorney said.

ByABC News
June 7, 2017, 10:39 PM

— -- For all the unsavory details in the James Comey account of the president's behavior, tonight the White House and some top Republicans see big vindication for Trump.

When all is said and done, Comey has now publicly gone on record with what Trump always wanted him to say but which he wouldn’t or couldn’t for the past four months -– resolving the core irritant for Trump since he's taken office -- declaring that he told Trump he's not personally under investigation by the FBI.

"The President feels completely and totally vindicated," his attorney Marc Kasowitz declared tonight.

For Trump, it must feel like vindication not just from the criminal conspiracies but also for his abrupt and controversial decision to fire his FBI director. Only out of a job at the FBI has Comey finally done what Trump so desperately wanted.

In essence, Comey says the Trump encounters -- nine one-on-ones over four months -- were uncomfortable, but not impactful. The investigations continued unimpeded. The conversations may have been highly unusual, if not grossly inappropriate, but not necessarily illegal.

It is entirely possible that what Comey meant and what Trump understood were two different things, and that may get clarified with Comey's testimony Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. But it's hard not to read Comey's plain statement any other way: "We were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him [on March 30th] I had previously told him that," he wrote.

In fact, Comey even reveals for the first time that Trump encouraged him in private to continue the FBI investigation into his associates: "The president went on to say that if there were some 'satellite' associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out," Comey says.

It's a sentiment that does not bolster a case for intent to obstruct justice. Comey even acknowledges that he interpreted Trump's "I hope you can let this go" comment regarding the FBI probe into Mike Flynn as entirely unrelated to "the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign."

To be sure, Comey's statements do not mean Trump is not now or won't soon be under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But some members of Congress see in Mueller's blessing of Comey's testimony an all-clear for Trump.

"In the mind of special counselor Mueller, there is no case to be made," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) –- a frequent Trump critic -- on Fox News tonight. "If he felt like he had a case, he wouldn't let his chief and only witness go out in public and get beat up."

"This is the best evidence yet that in the mind of the special counsel there is no obstruction of justice case to be made against President Trump," he added.

Democrats clearly feel differently and intend to press their case. Some Republicans remain publicly cautious and skeptical, as well.

"Obstruction of justice is certainly one possibility," the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), told ABC News' Mary Bruce tonight.

"The biggest remaining question I have is, the President demanded his loyalty, didn't get it. The president asked him to drop the Flynn case, and he didn't do it. Is this why Jim Comey was fired?"

Comey has not yet weighed in on his firing or answered questions about whether the events of May 9th -– and subsequent personal attacks by the president –- cast in a different light any of the prior one-on-one encounters with Trump. Those answers could be the most compelling portion of the blockbuster Q&A before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

Meanwhile, as Comey's revelations animate Trump's critics on the left, the president's behavior is likely applauded by his base on the right. As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie put it tonight, Trump's behavior as a political outsider should not be particularly surprising.

"What people don't understand is that they elected an outsider president. They elected someone who has never been inside government and, quite frankly, didn't spend a lot of time interacting with government -- except at the local level," Christie said in an interview on MSNBC.

"What you're seeing is a president who is now is very publicly learning about the way people react to what he considers to be normal, New York City conversations," Christie said.

A communication style that also includes bursts of uncensored and often unedited statements in 140 characters or less on Twitter -- a tool President Trump has at his fingertips tomorrow when Comey takes the hot seat on Capitol Hill at 10 a.m.

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