-- Defending his May tweet that suggested he may have “tapes" of his conversations with James Comey, President Trump said his comment may have persuaded the fired FBI director to tell the truth about their interactions.
“When he found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether it's governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows, I think his story may have changed,” Trump said in an interview taped Thursday and aired this morning on “Fox and Friends.”
“I mean, you will have to take a look at that because, then, he has to tell what actually took place at the events."
It's unclear what the president is referring to in arguing that Comey's story may have changed after the May 12 tweet. Comey was fired by Trump three days before the tweet and had not yet gone public with any account of his firing.
But Comey said during his June 8 testimony before Congress that Trump's tweet did influence him, though not the way Trump suggests. Comey credited the tweet with his decision to leak his detailed memos of his interactions with the president to a friend, who then gave the information to the New York Times for publication.
His motivation, Comey acknowledged, was that leaking the memos "might prompt the appointment of a special counsel."
Trump and the White House went six weeks neither confirming nor denying the existence of any tapes. But the tweet alone set off a series of events resulting in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s announcing his decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel in the Russia investigation, and the House Intelligence Committee’s issuing a bipartisan request demanding the White House hand over any recordings that could be pertinent to its own investigation.
Mueller is now said to be investigating whether the president has attempted to obstruct justice in the investigation of his campaign's ties to Russia.
Still, the president believes his initial May 12 tweet was not ill-advised.
"Well, it wasn't very stupid. I can tell you that he did admit that what I said was right,” Trump said, referring to Comey's initial refusal during his tenure to say the president himself wasn't under investigation in the FBI's probe. “And if you look further back, before he heard about that, I think maybe he wasn't admitting that so, you'll have to do a little investigative reporting to determine that. But, I don't think it will be that hard.”
But the president's suggestion that his tweet influenced Comey to be truthful in recounting his conversations contradicts Trump's own assertion that Comey misled Congress.
Trump disputed Comey's testimony that he felt pressured by the president to drop the FBI's investigation of fired national security adviser Mike Flynn, as well as Comey's account that the president asked for loyalty from him.
"My story didn't change," the president said in his Thursday interview. "My story was always a straight story. My story was always the truth.”