WASHINGTON — In his effort to undercut former FBI director James Comey’s Senate testimony Thursday, President Trump’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, appears to have misstated the sequence of two crucial events in the ongoing probe of the administration: Trump’s now infamous tweet implying he may have tapes of his conversations with Comey, and a New York Times article disclosing the existence of Comey’s memos about his meetings with the president.
In Comey’s account to the Senate intelligence committee, he “woke up in the middle of the night” on Monday, May 15, thinking about the president’s tweet the previous Friday, suggesting there might be tapes of the conversations between the two of them.
The possible existence of tapes, Comey testified, prompted him to ask a friend — a Columbia University law professor — to leak the contents of one his memos to a New York Times reporter. This, in turn, led to a bombshell story by reporter Michael Schmidt that for the first time revealed that Comey had written contemporaneous memos about his conversations with Trump and quoted an excerpt from one of them: the conversation in which the president, discussing the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, said, “I hope you can let this go.”
Kasowitz, in his first public appearance in the matter, accused Comey of leaking “privileged conversations” — but there is no indication the memos were classified. The lawyer then sought to dispute the timing of Comey’s account.
“Although Mr. Comey testified he only leaked the memos in response to a tweet, the public record reveals that the New York Times was quoting from these memos the day before the referenced tweet, which belies Mr. Comey’s excuse for this unauthorized disclosure of privileged information and appears to be entirely retaliatory. We will leave it to the appropriate authorities to determine whether this (sic) leaks should be investigated along with all those others being investigated.”
But Kasowitz — whose prepared statement was filled with typos and misspellings — appears to have gotten it wrong. The key Trump tweet about White House tapes was Friday, May 12, at 8:26 a.m. “James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
The first Times story quoting from one of Comey’s memos was not the day before that tweet, as Kasowitz claimed, but four days later, on May 16.
James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Kasowitz was evidently referring to an early Times story by Schmidt that did appear the day before Trump’s tweet. On May 11, Schmidt, citing accounts from Comey “associates,” described a Jan. 27 dinner the then FBI director had with Trump in which the president asked him for his “loyalty.” But the earlier story does not quote from any memos by Comey — or make any reference to the existence of such memos. And there is nothing in the story to suggest it was based on read-outs from those memos. Contacted by Yahoo News, a spokesman for Kasowitz said only: “Our statement stands.” A source close to the matter added: “It is our firm belief that the Times report [on May 11] had the memos read to them.”
Read more from Yahoo News:
- James Comey on Trump meeting: ‘Lordy, I hope there are tapes’
- White House: Just a ‘regular Thursday’ despite Comey firestorm
- Comey asked Columbia Law professor to leak memos to reporter
- Comey: ‘I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russian investigation’’
- Photos: James Comey testifies at Senate hearing