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Trump takes defiant tone as pressure from Congress ratchets up

A defiant President Donald Trump repeatedly attacked ousted FBI director James Comey on Friday, accusing him of lying under oath and leaking sensitive information about their talks, even as congressional investigators upped the pressure on the White House to back up its claims.

After remaining quiet on Thursday, letting his lawyers and other surrogates rebut Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Trump used a Rose Garden press conference with visiting Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to launch an array of counterclaims.

“No collusion, no obstruction. He’s a leaker,” Trump said. “Yesterday showed no collusion, no obstruction.”

The appearance was vintage Trump, with the president ready to spar with the assembled press, which he described as “killer.”

Trump denied that he pressured Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The president, however, stopped short of saying Comey lied when the question was posed directly. “Well, I didn’t say that. I mean, I will tell you I didn’t say that,” he said of the Flynn claim. “And there’d be nothing wrong if I did say it, according to everybody that I’ve read today, but I did not say that.”

In response to a question about whether he would repeat that claim under oath, Trump indicated he would “100 percent” testify — quickly adding that he “would be glad to tell” special counsel Robert Mueller, the former FBI director overseeing the bureau’s probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign, “what I just told you.”

“What you saw during the press conference with the Romanian president is a perfect reflection of how he’s feeling – vindicated, defiant,” said a White House official.

But Trump is facing questions not just from Mueller but from congressional committees investigating Russian contacts with Trump associates and campaign aides—probes that have now expanded to include the circumstances of Comey’s dismissal.

Late Friday, leaders of the House Intelligence Committee asked the White House to produce any tapes or other documentation that might exist of Trump’s conversations with Comey, as he claimed in a May tweet. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) asked White House counsel Don McGahn to confirm whether any tapes exist, and if so, to produce them for the committee by June 23.

Trump first raised the prospect of tapes in a May 12 tweet, just three days after he fired Comey, who was leading an investigation into potential collusion between Trump associates and Russia to influence the 2016 election.

Trump at the press conference deflected repeated questions about whether he had recordings of his private interactions with Comey, saying that he would release the tapes” in a very short period of time.”

Comey testified under oath on Thursday that Trump asked him to end an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn during a private Oval Office meeting. Comey declined the request but memorialized the meeting in a memo, he said, because the encounter made him uncomfortable.

“Look, I’ve seen the tweet about tapes,” Comey told the Committee on Thursday. “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

The committee also requested copies of Comey’s notes and memos about his conversations with Trump. It’s now the fourth committee to request Comey’s notes, joining the House Oversight Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The judiciary panel, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), requested that a friend of Comey’s — Columbia law professor Dan Richman — turn over any copies of Comey’s memos he may have. Comey identified Richman, though not by name, during his testimony on Thursday, indicating he shared the contents of his memos with Richman with the goal of publicizing his account of events.

“Mr. Comey himself has encouraged you to release them,” the committee members wrote in a letter dated Thursday. “Accordingly, we ask that you provide the Committee copies of all memoranda you received from Mr. Comey by no later than June 9, 2017.

Comey indicated that he’s provided his own copies of his memos to special counsel Robert Mueller, and that he’s no longer in possession of them.

A lawyer for Trump has threatened to file a complaint to the Senate Judiciary Committee about Comey’s decision to publicize the memos through his friend. Judiciary Committee spokesman Taylor Foy said Friday evening that the committee had not yet received any such complaint.

Trump was in a positive mood throughout the day, after breaking his initial silence with an aggressive early morning tweet in which he blasted Comey as a “leaker” who made “so many false statements and lies.” He was in touch with aides and his personal attorney Marc Kasowitz throughout the day to talk about messaging, according to the White House official.

The official added that Trump seemed to be pleased that Comey said definitively that Trump was not the target of a counterintelligence investigation.

Comey had accused the Trump administration of lying about why he was abruptly fired last month and told lawmakers the president had encouraged him to drop an investigation into Flynn, requested his loyalty and fired him “because of the Russia investigation.”

Asked about possible recordings of his conversations with Comey, the president rejected the notion that he had hinted of their existence.

“I’m not hinting anything. I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time,” he said. He added moments later to a shouted question about whether the tapes exist: “Oh, you’re gonna be very disappointed when you hear the answer. Don’t worry.” It’s unclear if he was being facetious.

Marc Kasowitz, the president’s outside counsel, had said in a statement Thursday that Trump’s legal team would “leave it up to the appropriate authorities to determine” whether Comey’s disclosure “should be investigated with all those others being investigated.”

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