President Trump’s legal team is renewing claims that fired FBI Director James Comey misled Congress as they push back on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, in the wake of the latest explosive perjury plea filed in the Russia case.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to Congress about the timeline of a since-abandoned Moscow real estate project.
Trump, in response, branded Cohen “weak” and a liar, while attorney Rudy Giuliani stressed Mueller still has “no evidence of collusion” and has instead racked up false-statement pleas.
But Trump’s lawyers also are raising questions of a double standard, drawing new attention to letters sent in 2017 to Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein hammering Comey over allegations of his own “inaccurate” statements.
One June 2017 letter to Mueller, penned by lawyer Marc Kasowitz, said Comey has shown a “pattern of exaggerated, embellished, and materially incomplete and self-serving testimony that cripples” his credibility.
The letter cited eight alleged areas of problematic testimony. This included complaints that Comey testified in May 2017 he never acted as an anonymous source in news reports related to the Trump or Clinton probes, though he shared accounts of his private Trump meetings with the understanding they would leak to the press in the event of his ouster. The letter said Comey’s testimony was “misleading,” even if “technically correct.” But Kasowitz detailed a host of other examples, involving allegedly misleading claims about Trump’s directives to him, about his closure of the Clinton email case and subsequent revisiting, and more.
In a heated interview earlier this year with Fox News’ Bret Baier, Comey disputed the notion that his discussions of his Trump meetings constituted a leak.
The focus on these Comey complaints, though, dovetails with the narrative Trump himself is pushing on Twitter, repeatedly criticizing Mueller for not applying the same scrutiny to his political detractors.
“This is an illegal Hoax that should be ended immediately. Mueller refuses to look at the real crimes on the other side,” he tweeted Thursday night.
Comey, though, has hardly escaped the persistent scrutiny of congressional Republicans and is currently locked in a battle with them over a newly issued subpoena.
He is now asking a federal judge to dismiss a House Judiciary Committee subpoena requesting closed-door testimony, citing a history of leaks creating a “corrosive narrative.”
“Mr. Comey asks this court’s intervention not to avoid giving testimony but to prevent the Joint Committee from using the pretext of a closed interview to peddle a distorted, partisan political narrative about the Clinton and Russian investigations through selective leaks,” recent court documents read.
The subpoena, issued last week, calls on Comey to testify as part of the congressional inquiry into allegations of anti-Trump bias surrounding the closure of the Clinton email probe and opening of the Russia probe.
The former FBI chief, who was fired by Trump in May 2017, alleged in his motion that he previously declined a closed-door meeting in October and instead offered a public hearing but the committee never addressed the matter again.
A hearing is set for Friday.
While Trump’s lawyers apparently never succeeded in getting Mueller to scrutinize Comey, a critical inspector general report released in June found Comey was “insubordinate” in concealing from his superiors his plans to make a 2016 public announcement recommending against prosecution in the Clinton case.