President Trump called it “bothersome” that the special counsel now overseeing the Russia probe was “good friends” with fired FBI Director James B. Comey, and said he hinted at having tapes of his private conversations — apparently falsely — to try to influence Comey’s eventual testimony.
The president made his remarks during an interview that aired Friday morning on “Fox & Friends,” but was recorded on Thursday just hours after he tweeted that he did not, in fact, have tapes. Trump said that floating the possibility they did exist might have forced Comey “to tell what actually took place at the events.”
“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. “My story didn’t change. My story was always a straight story.”
Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt followed up: “So it was a smart way to make sure he stayed honest in those hearings?”
“It wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that,” Trump answered.
Many disagree, including Republicans. Comey testified that Trump’s tweet is what prompted him to ask a friend to slip contemporaneous memos of his conversations with Trump to reporters, to “get that out into the public square.”
In his accounts and his subsequent testimony to Congress, Comey conveyed his concerns that the president was asking him to drop the various Russia-related investigations, a request suggestive of obstruction of justice, and that Trump might lie about their encounters.
By getting the content of his memos into the news, “I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel,” Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
It did. Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein named Robert Mueller, a widely regarded lawyer who served as FBI director for more than a decade before Comey, to oversee the Russia probe.
Trump continued to disparage the investigation, which he repeatedly has called “a witch hunt” into the “hoax” that is allegations about Russia’s ties to his campaign. But in the interview he stopped short of saying Mueller should now recuse himself.
“We’ll have to see,” he said. “I can say that the people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters. Some of them worked for Hillary Clinton. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous, if you want to know the truth, from that standpoint.”
“But Robert Mueller is an honorable man and hopefully he’ll come up with an honorable solution.”
Some investigators and lawyers hired by Mueller reportedly contributed to Clinton. Yet so has Trump.
In 2007, Trump made a $600 donation to Clinton’s presidential campaign; his son, Donald Jr., made two separate donations totaling $4,000. In the 2008 and 2010 campaign cycles, Trump donated tens of thousands of dollars to individual Democrats and party committees, including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the current Senate Democratic leader, Sen. Charles E. Schumer — “Cryin’ Chuck,” as Trump calls him.