US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer has rejected allegations made by James Comey, the former FBI director, before the US Senate.
Marc Kasowitz said Mr Trump never sought to impede the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
He suggested that leaks by Mr Comey should themselves be investigated.
Mr Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday about events leading up to his sacking.
He went on the record with a number of explosive claims. Mr Comey said:
- the Russians interfered in last year’s US election
- Mr Trump asked him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was himself forced out after misleading the vice-president about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador before Mr Trump took office
- the president demanded his loyalty
- the president defamed him and the FBI by claiming the agency was “poorly led”; this Mr Comey called “lies, plain and simple”
- he may have been fired to “change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted”
- he did not have knowledge of the president trying to stop the Russia investigation
- it was not for him to say whether Mr Trump’s actions were an obstruction of justice
Mr Comey was leading one of several Russia investigations before Mr Trump fired him last month.
He also said he kept a written record of conversations with the president as he was “honestly worried he might lie” about them, and leaked details of one conversation – about the Michael Flynn investigation – after a version of it had already been published in the press.
As a result of that episode, a special counsel was appointed to lead an independent investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential ties to the Kremlin.
When reporters asked Mr Trump after the testimony whether he thought Mr Comey was telling the truth, the president did not respond but simply smiled through pursed lips.
The president has rejected the allegation that anyone around him colluded with Russia and says the “real” story is leaks.
“Today, Mr Comey admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorised disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the president,” Mr Kasowitz told reporters.
“We will leave it to the appropriate authorities to determine whether these leaks should be investigated along with all the other leaks that are being investigated.”
He also said in a statement that Mr Comey’s testimony “finally confirmed publicly” that the president was not under investigation as part of any probe in Russian political meddling, and denied the claim that Mr Trump asked Mr Comey for his loyalty.
The former FBI boss remained largely composed throughout almost three hours of testimony but became impassioned when delivering his opening remarks.
“The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is and always will be independent,” he said in his opening remarks.
There is no known evidence of collusion between Russia and the US, and President Donald Trump has dismissed the story as “fake news”.
‘Staggering blow’ for Trump – Anthony Zurcher, BBC News
For Donald Trump the good news from James Comey’s testimony is that the former FBI director clearly said the president was not directly under FBI investigation at the time he was fired. The bad news was, well, everything else.
It’s clear the president woefully mishandled this, for which he has paid a high price ever since. By unceremoniously sacking him, and offering a muddle of explanations for it, he created an adversary with both the means and the motivation to respond in the most damaging way.
The White House may claim today’s testimony is a technical exoneration. Politically, however, it’s a staggering blow.
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