WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump’s eldest son seemed to confirm fired FBI director James Comey’s account that the president expressed “hope” Comey would end the FBI investigation into former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials, contradicting the president’s denial that he made such an appeal.
While defending his father in a Fox News interview with Judge Jeanine Pirro, a Trump ally, the younger Trump said there would have been “no ambiguity” if the president had made the request to Comey during a Feb. 14 Oval Office meeting, despite the president and his personal lawyer disputing the exchange.
“When he tells you to do something, guess what? There’s no ambiguity in it, there’s no, ‘Hey, I’m hoping,’” Donald Trump Jr. told Pirro on Saturday, trying to explain that it could not have been a direct request. “You and I are friends: ‘Hey, I hope this happens, but you’ve got to do your job.’ That’s what he told Comey.”
Comey immediately detailed the meeting in a memo, writing that Trump told him: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
The president has repeatedly denied Comey’s account of the Feb. 14 conversation.
“I did not say that,” Trump said, when asked about the exchange at a press conference on Friday.
Comey’s account is central to the question of whether Trump obstructed justice by asking Comey to end the investigation and then fired him when he did not.
The former FBI director on Thursday testified that he “took it as a direction,” given that the president had dismissed everyone else from the room to meet with Comey alone, before making the request. It also followed a previous one-on-one encounter in which Trump asked Comey to pledge his “honest loyalty.”
Trump’s son attacked Comey for not taking action if he “felt threatened” by the president.
“For this guy, as a politician, to then go back and write a memo: ‘Oh, I felt threatened.’ He felt so threatened, but he didn’t do anything,” Trump Jr. said.
Comey testified that he asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to not allow Trump to meet with him alone. But he did not feel it was appropriate to tell Sessions about Trump’s request, fearing it would impede the larger FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russian officials.
Sessions, who met at least twice with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak last year, later recused himself from matters involving the Russia investigation. Comey revealed Thursday that at the time, he and FBI colleagues knew that Sessions would have to recuse himself because they may have discovered even more compromising information involving Sessions.
In response to his testimony, Trump and his allies have continued to dispute Comey’s detailed recollections and attack the fired FBI director’s character, while simultaneously claiming that his testimony vindicated the president. On Friday, Trump accused Comey of committing perjury, and said he would be “100 percent” willing to testify under oath to dispute Comey.
Clarification: This article initially reported Donald Trump Jr.’s comment as suggesting his father’s statement to Comey about Flynn was itself an order, as Comey himself has characterized it. Rather, Trump’s comment to Pirro disputed the interpretation of the statement, but not that his father actually made it, as his father himself has claimed, and the article has been updated to clarify the distinction.