WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump on Friday said he is “100 percent” willing to testify under oath about his meetings with former FBI director James Comey, complaining that many things Comey said during the extraordinary public session “just weren’t true.”
The president’s comments during a joint press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis capped a day on which it was revealed Trump’s personal attorney plans to file a complaint against former FBI Director James Comey for details he revealed during his congressional testimony on Thursday.
According to sources close to Trump’s legal team, attorney Marc Kasowitz will spend Friday preparing to file a complaint against Comey early next week with the Justice Department’s inspector general.
The complaint will focus on Comey’s revelation that he asked a friend, Columbia Law School professor Daniel Richman, to act as a conduit for passing notes to a New York Times reporter.
Those notes, written by Comey, detail his private conversations with the president about former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
Kasowitz, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, is also expected to file a submission with the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Reports of the pending filings prompted a swift response from Norman Eisen, the former special counsel for ethics and government reform under President Barack Obama. Eisen said he is preparing to defend Comey should the Trump legal team move ahead with filing the complaints.
“This is an abuse of process, and we will be filing a defense of Comey,” Eisen wrote on Twitter Friday morning.
Trump did not comment on whether complaints will actually be filed during his Rose Garden press conference, and he was coy when reporters ask him if there were tapes of his exchanges with Comey.
“Well, I’ll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future,” the president said
However, Trump did not restrain himself from taking a few jabs at Comey, calling him a “leaker” and saying his testimony “confirmed what I’ve been saying about him” — presumably a reference to his calling the former FBI director a “showboat” after his firing.
The president also said he never told Comey he hoped investigation of fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn go away.
Still, Trump evidently didn’t think Comey’s testimony was all bad, contending it proved there was “no collusion, no obstruction” on the president’s part.
Trump was initially uncharacteristically reserved about about Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, only breaking his silence on the matter on Twitter Friday morning.
The president chose not to directly comment on Comey’s testimony while it was transpiring Thursday or immediately afterward, but shortly before dawn on Friday he tweeted, “Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication … and WOW, Comey is a leaker.”
During much of the increasingly heated debate surrounding the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s role in the election, Trump has chafed over news leaks, arguing that news organizations had not given them proper attention.
But Richard Painter, the board chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the chief White House ethics lawyer for the George W. Bush administration, took a dim view of these assertions on Friday, saying what is now known for certain at this point is that “Comey is a material witness in what will certainly be an obstruction of justice investigation by [Special Counsel] Bob Mueller, that will be one of the things that Bob Mueller will investigate.”
Painter rejected President Trump’s assertions that Comey’s testimony vindicated him and proves he didn’t try to obstruct justice.
“The problem is that the president fired James Comey, and all the evidence I’ve seen thus far suggests that the president fired him in order to put a stop to the Russia investigation,” Painter said.
“He has the power to fire the FBI director, but he doesn’t have the power to fire the FBI director in order to stop an investigation, if that’s his reason.”
Even if doubt remains about who to believe – the president or Comey – Painter said a strong case can be made for obstruction, some through the president’s own words.
“Statements by the president suggest strongly, if not actually out and out say ‘I fired Comey because I wanted to stop the Russia investigation,’” Painter said.
Painter also balked at the notion that Comey is a leaker, as President Trump and his attorney Marc Kasowitz have insisted following Comey’s testimony, and suggested that any effort to get the Department of Justice inspector general to investigate him as such will fail.
“Investigate Comey for what?” Painter said. “There’s no evidence of any crime committed by Comey.”
“If you leak classified information to the press, that’s a crime. If you disclose to the press non-classified information, that is not a crime – that happens all the time in government.”
According to Painter, an inspector general would rarely investigate the leak of non-classified information to the press by a current employee, let alone a former employee. And when inspectors general do take up such an investigation, they might do so only to put a stop to leaks.
“I’ve never ever heard of a former employee being investigated by the United States government for leaking non-classified information,” Painter said.
If Kasowit moves forward by filing a complaint with the DOJ, Painter said it could constitute witness intimidation.
“It’s not going to work, it’s not going to intimate Comey but it’s an effort at witness intimidation,” Painter added.
He marveled at the idea of intimidating a witness in a possible obstruction of justice case.
“It’s absurd, it’s a terrible legal strategy,” Painter said. “I don’t know why Kasowitz wants to pursue it.”
In Painter’s estimation, Kasowtiz could land in hot water if the president is ever accused of obstructing justice. Ethics rules prevent attorneys from assisting clients in a crime or committing fraud, and witness intimidation is considered a form of obstruction.
“If Trump authorizes the lawyer to do it, he is just as guilty of witness intimidation as if he did it himself,” Painter said.
Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign team on Friday morning sought to capitalize on Comey’s testimony, sending out a fundraising blast based in part on it.
“James Comey stated under oath that President Trump was NOT under investigation by the FBI … So why has the Fake News Media spent so much time reporting on the so-called “Russia investigation?” (Emphasis original)
The email blast also slammed the Democratic party.
“Democrats are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites inciting a WITCH HUNT to take down President Trump … And for one simple reason: He wants to put America FIRST … the witch hunt won’t be over today,” the release said. (Emphasis original)
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi appeared to take the early morning blasts in stride Friday, telling reporters she has concerns about Trump’s “fitness for office” in light of his penchant for early morning tweeting.
“More sleep might be a solution for him,” Pelosi said.
One thing became abundantly clear Friday: America can’t seem to get enough of the Trump-Comey saga.
Comey’s testimony drew nearly 9 million total viewers across the three major cable news networks on Thursday, according to early Nielsen data.
During special coverage of Comey’s testimony from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET, Fox News finished first in total viewers with 3.1 million but was third in the key adults 25-54 demographic with 600,000 viewers. CNN was a close second in total viewers with 3.05 million viewers but finished first handily in the demo with 1.02 million. MSNBC was third in viewers 2.72 million but second in the demo with 630,000.
In addition, Variety reported Friday that CNN Digital’s live stream of Comey’s testimony generated 3.9 million live starts, ranking in the top 10 of all days on record for live stream starts, according to data provided by the network.
Viewers peaked at 11:35AM at 769,000 concurrent users. The day also saw 21 million unique visitors and 21 million video starts across all platforms, including 8 million unique visitors on CNN Politics content alone.