WASHINGTON - After a week in which the Senate testimony of former FBI Director James Comey dominated the political debate in Washington, President Donald Trump sought to have the last word Friday.
At a joint news conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Trump was asked to respond to Comey’s Thursday appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Watch: Trump on Comey: ‘No Collusion, No Obstruction, He’s A Leaker’
“No collusion. No obstruction. He’s a leaker. But we want to get back to running our great country,” Trump said defiantly. Earlier in the day on Twitter, the president claimed “total and complete vindication” in the wake of Comey’s testimony.
Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication...and WOW, Comey is a leaker!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2017
Trump also denied Comey’s assertion that he had asked the former FBI director to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, adding he would be willing to testify under oath.
“I will tell you I didn’t say that. And there would be nothing wrong if I did say that according to everybody that I have read today. But I did not say that,” Trump said.
Trump also said he would provide information soon on whether there are White House tape recordings of his meetings with Comey, then added that reporters “are going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer.”
The House Intelligence Committee Friday requested that the White House provide any tape recordings, if they exist, by June 23.
Dispute over Flynn
During Thursday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Comey said he felt the president’s request to let the Flynn investigation go amounted to a direct order.
Watch: Comey on Trump‘s Word: ‘I Took It As A Direction’
?“I took it as a direction. I mean this is the president of the United States with me alone saying ‘I hope this.’ I took it as this is what he wants me to do. Now I did not obey that but that is the way I took it,” Comey testified.
Some Republican senators pressed Comey on the Flynn issue, and Comey acknowledged there were no other requests from the White House to drop the investigation.
Trump said Friday he would be willing to testify under oath “100 percent” that he did not tell Comey to let the Flynn probe “go.”
But if Comey’s account is true that the president asked him for his loyalty and that he drop the Flynn investigation, it could leave Trump in legal jeopardy.
Watch: Trump Says Comey Testimony Shows No Collusion With Russia
“Those activities taken together could well constitute obstruction of justice, though obviously that will be for Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor, to determine,” Paul Schiff Berman, a law professor at George Washington University, said.
Comey also attacked Trump’s credibility during the hearing and said he took careful notes after their meetings because he worried the president might lie about their conversations.
Some analysts contend Comey’s testimony may have done lasting political damage to Trump.
“How do you gain that back once it is lost, credibility? I think that is difficult for the president. I think it is difficult for the administration,” said Chris Edelson, an assistant professor of government at American University in Washington, D.C.
For the moment, Republicans appear to be sticking with the president.
‘New to government’
House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Thursday that Trump “is new at this, new to government,” adding that he probably “wasn’t steeped in the long running protocols that established the relationships between the Department of Justice, the FBI and White Houses.”
Republican Representative Peter King of New York told VOA that, overall, Trump emerged relatively unscathed from the Comey hearing.
“I think on balance it was positive for the president,” King said. “When you take all the drama away, the bottom line is that he said President Trump has never been under investigation.”
But most Democrats have a far different view of the Comey impact and are eager for the congressional and special counsel investigations to unfold.
“We have in our country this insulation between law enforcement and the equal rule of law and political interference, and the president crossed that line,” Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said.
Trump’s claim of “vindication” in the wake of Comey’s testimony even struck some Republicans as premature.
The Russia probe, now led by special counsel Robert Mueller, is looking at possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.