EghtesadOnline: President Donald Trump called James Comey “cowardly,” days after the fired FBI director’s testimony to a Senate committee and as Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered to speak to the same panel to answer questions about alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
“I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!’” Trump told his 32 million Twitter followers on Sunday.
On Friday, according to Bloomberg, Trump said during a news conference at the White House that Comey’s testimoney to the Senate Intelligence Committee a day earlier showed that the president hadn’t colluded with the Russian government to rig the 2016 election, and hadn’t obstructed a federal investigation into the meddling.
Trump also said he’d be “100 percent” willing to testify under oath that he didn’t demand a pledge of personal loyalty from Comey -- an offer that Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer jumped on in an appearance on a Sunday political talk show.
Sessions late Saturday canceled planned appearances at a pair of appropriations panels on Tuesday and instead said he would appear before the intelligence committee.
That panel hasn’t announced the timing of a hearing with Sessions, though, or said whether he’ll appear in an open or closed format.
Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the committee is still in a “final conversation” with Sessions but assumes the hearing would be public.
‘Can’t Run Forever’
Two leading Democrats, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, called on Sessions to appear -- in public -- before the Judiciary Committee, which has oversight responsibility for the Department of Justice. “You can’t run forever,” Leahy said in a Twitter message to Sessions that also referenced “false testimony” by the attorney general about his contacts with Russian officials.
It would be “fitting” for the attorney general to appear before Judiciary, Feinstein, the top Democrat on that panel, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I have written two letters to Senator Grassley suggesting that,” she added, referring to Iowa’s Charles Grassley, the committee’s chairman.
“The Judiciary staff are all lawyers, most very good lawyers. And so there is an opportunity to look at the law with respect to obstruction of justice, to hold a hearing, and also to have those relevant people come before the Judiciary Committee,” said Feinstein, who’s a member of both committees.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and another member of the Judiciary Committee, said both Sessions and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch should appear. Comey testified that Lynch asked him during last year’s presidential campaign to call the investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s emails a “matter.”
“If the attorney general’s office has become a political office, that is bad for us all,” Graham said on CBS. “So I want to get to the bottom of that, and it should be in Judiciary.”
Preet Bharara, the former New York Attorney, said that there’s “absolutely” enough evidence to begin an obstruction case against Trump for his dismissal of Comey and what Comey described as an attempt during a private meeting to have the bureau drop inquiries into Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser.
Trump’s alleged comments to Comey about Flynn “is a big deal, and can’t be excused by simply being a novice,” Bharara said on ABC’s “This Week,” the first televised interview since his own firing by Trump in March. He added that “no one knows right now whether there is a provable case of obstruction.”
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said her “theory” is that Trump thought his conversations with Comey were how a president should interact with the FBI director.
“The president clearly does not fully understand or appreciate the boundaries. But he should,” she said on CNN. “I’m not excusing his behavior. But I’m saying that there are a lot of people in government who should have set him straight.”
Collins also said that Trump should reveal whether he has recordings of Comey, as the president has suggested. “He should give a straight yes or no,” she said, adding that she would support a subpoena to obtain the tapes if they exist.
Schumer, speaking on CBS, invited the president to testify before the Senate. “I think we could work out a way it could be dignified, public, ” he said.
The New Yorker also said Trump should stop “game-playing” about the possible existence of taped conversations. On Friday, Trump ended his news conference with a cliff-hanger about the tapes: “I’ll tell you about that over a very short period of time.”
In letters Saturday to the two appropriations panel chairmen, Sessions said he’d concluded that regardless of which committees he appeared before, the questions would inevitably focus on the Russian probe.
Following Comey’s testimony, “it is important that I have the opportunity to address these matters in the appropriate forum,” Sessions wrote, adding that members of the intelligence committee are in the middle of an investigation and have “access to relevant, classified information.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will stand in for Sessions at the two appropriations subcommittee hearings on Tuesday. The House hearing had already been rescheduled from May 24.