U.S. President Donald Trump has asserted on Twitter that he received "total and complete vindication" from former FBI chief James Comey's testimony in a congressional probe into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election in 2016.
Trump's tweet on June 9 was his first public comment on the testimony from Comey, who accused the president and his team of lying about the reasons for his dismissal and seeking to undermine the FBI's investigation of possible collusion by Trump's campaign with the alleged Russian attempt to sway the vote in his favor.
"Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication...and WOW, Comey is a leaker!" Trump tweeted.
Later, when asked about his Twitter comments during a joint news conference with visiting Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Trump repeated his belief that he had been vindicated.
"Yesterday showed no collusion, no obstruction," he said, calling the allegations "just an excuse" by the Democrats for losing the 2016 presidential election. "Frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said. And some of the things he said just were not true."
Trump's Twitter comments and later remarks echoed those made by his personal lawyer in response to Comey's testimony on June 8.
The lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, stressed that Comey confirmed that he had told Trump that the president himself was not under investigation, and suggested that Comey could be prosecuted for the release of "privileged information."
In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey said it seemed that the investigation, which focused on interactions between Trump associates and Russian officials, "was irritating" for Trump and that was why he decided to fire Comey.
"I know I was fired because of something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was in some way putting pressure on him, in some way irritating him," Comey said.
Comey also said that Trump pressured him to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, who served briefly as Trump's national security adviser, and that the White House lied about the reasons for Comey's own dismissal on May 9.
"The administration chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader," he said. "Those were lies, plain and simple.”
Kasowitz said that Trump "never, in form or substance" directed Comey to halt the probe into Flynn.
In his tweet, Trump stopped short of directly accusing Comey of lying under oath at the hearing.
In his public testimony, Comey said he had no doubt that Russia meddled in the election but did not disclose any specific links between Trump advisers and the alleged Russian interference.
Russia has denied interfering and the White House has denied collusion with Moscow.
Comey said he shared an unclassified memo of a conversation with Trump with a friend, who conveyed the information to the media, because he hoped it would lead to the appointment of a special counsel.
Comey's dismissal stoked suspicions among Democrats and others that the White House was trying to undermine the FBI probe. Another former FBI director, Robert Mueller, was appointed as special counsel the week after Comey was fired.
In his testimony, Comey would not say whether he thought Trump tried to obstruct justice -- an accusation that could potentially form the basis of impeachment proceedings.
"I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct," Comey testified. "I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning."
In January, the U.S. intelligence community issued an assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin "ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election," with goals including undermining faith in the U.S. democratic system, denigrating Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton, and improving Trump's chances of winning the presidency.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP