WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump did not respond to former FBI Director James Comey’s congressional testimony in his first public appearance on Thursday, but he seemed to allude to the event by telling supporters his administration was “under siege.”
Speaking at a conference hosted by the Faith & Freedom Coalition, an annual gathering of conservative evangelicals and activists in the nation’s capital, Trump thanked attendees for working to elect him and promised “the truth” would come to light about his presidency.
“As you know, we’re under siege. You understand that. But we will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever. You watch,” he said.
“As the Bible tells us, we know that the truth will prevail,” he continued, to applause. “We are winners. We are going to fight, and we are going to have an unbelievable future.”
The president, who is known for lashing out at his critics, did not mention Comey in the 30-minute speech.
While much of the city followed the highly anticipated Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday, where Comey captivated lawmakers with a first-person account of his fateful meeting with the president earlier this year, attendees at the Faith & Freedom conference focused on the business of the day: defending and promoting their idea of Christian, conservative values.
There was evidence, however, that Comey’s testimony was on the minds of those in the room.
Ralph Reed, the chairman of the coalition, opened the event by welcoming attendees to D.C., which he described as an “island of fantasy surrounded by a sea of reality” (echoing a quip supposedly said by President Andrew Johnson).
“Is there any better example than today?” Reed said. “I don’t think so.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton later garnered a round of laughter by nodding to the day’s big news.
“It’s great to be here where nothing’s happening in D.C.,” he said cheekily.
“This is a strange time in Washington,” he said. “There’s a lot of noise. There’s a lot of people lighting their hair on fire on cable television every day.”
Cruz, who competed with Trump for the Republican presidential nomination last year, advised people to “ignore the political circus and let’s focus on delivering results.”
Attendees at the conference similarly dismissed the investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the presidential election.
“It’s overblown,” said Carlton Taylor, who helps run an Israeli nonprofit. “I think it’s one of those scenarios where they made a whole lot more out of it than there really is.”