Let’s break down this confusing exchange at a White House press conference.
At a press conference Friday, President Donald Trump continued to accuse fired FBI Director James Comey of lying about his conversations with Trump in sworn congressional testimony, and he seemed to suggest that he’d be willing to give his own version of events under oath.
But the exchange, with ABC News’s Jonathan Karl, was a bit of a muddle, and it’s unclear whether the president intended his answer to come across that way.
Over Twitter and now in the Rose Garden, Trump has accused Comey broadly of telling lies and making false statements during his sworn testimony. Trump’s personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz, however, has mentioned just two specific factual matters in which he says Comey is inaccurate.
One of these is Comey’s assertion that the president said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting [Michael] Flynn go,” in the Oval Office on February 14. The other is Comey’s assertion that Trump twice told him, “I need loyalty” during a January 27 dinner.
Karl followed up on both of these discrepancies, starting with the one involving Flynn:
KARL: He [Comey] did say under oath that you told him to let the Flynn — he said you told him you hoped the Flynn investigation, he could let it go—
TRUMP: I didn’t say that.
KARL: So he lied about that.
TRUMP: I didn’t say that. I mean, I will tell you that I didn’t say that.
KARL: And did he ask you to—
TRUMP: 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.
However, Karl then mixed up his question about the loyalty oath a bit, accidentally asking Trump if Comey asked for a pledge of loyalty from him, rather than the other way around.
KARL: And did he ask for a pledge of loyalty from you, that’s another thing he said?
TRUMP: No he did not.
Then Karl asked the big question — whether Trump would be willing to give his version of events under oath. Trump seemed to say that he “100 percent” would, but then rambled a bit in a confusing way and apparently suggesting he interpreted “under oath” as referring to the alleged exchange between him and Comey about loyalty.
KARL: So he said those things under oath, would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of those events?
TRUMP: 100 percent. I didn’t say “under oath,” I hardly know the man, I’m not gonna say “I want you to pledge allegiance,” who would do that, who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean think of it, I hardly know the man, it doesn’t make sense. No I didn’t say that and I didn’t say the other.
After this, Trump said he’d be happy to repeat what he just said to Special Counsel Robert Mueller:
KARL: So if Robert Mueller wanted to speak to you about that—
TRUMP: I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you, Jon.
Finally, he continued to tease the potential existence of tapes about his conversations with Comey, suggesting he’d soon reveal whether there were, before saying the press would “be very disappointed” in the answer.
KARL: And you seem to be hinting that there are recordings of those conversations.
TRUMP: I’m not hinting anything, I’ll tell you about that over a very short period of time.
KARL: When will you tell us about the recordings?
TRUMP: Over a very short period of time.
KARL: Are there tapes, sir?
TRUMP: Oh, you’re gonna be very disappointed when you hear the answer, don’t worry.
So overall, this cleared up nothing. And even if President Trump did intend to say he’d testify under oath, you probably shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.
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