By Caroline Graham In Los Angeles
For The Mail On Sunday
IS JAMES COMEY LYING ABOUT TRUMP?
Donald Trump could be forced to release ‘secret tapes’ of his conversations with ousted FBI boss James Comey as early as this week. A letter demanding the tapes – if they exist – was sent to White House lawyers late on Friday by representatives of the Senate intelligence committee probing the US President’s alleged ties to Russia.
Last week Mr Comey made international headlines when he testified before the committee about three face-to-face meetings with Mr Trump, in which the President allegedly demanded a ‘pledge of loyalty’ and asked the FBI to end its Russia probe.
Mr Comey made notes of the meetings in January and February, which he leaked after he was fired last month.
Mr Trump then hinted he had recorded the private meetings in a tweet, saying: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
On Friday, the President declared he was “100 per cent” willing to testify under oath that Mr Comey was lying about their conversations, but refused to confirm the existence of the tapes.
He told reporters: “I’ll tell you about that maybe sometime in the near future,” adding cryptically: “You’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer, don’t worry.”
Mr Comey, who claims he was fired because he refused to back down in the Russian probe, said: “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.” He claims he wrote down details of the meetings “immediately after they happened” because he felt “uncomfortable”. He later leaked details of the notes to the media via a friend.
Mr Comey has already agreed to turn over his notes.
A White House source said:
“At the moment this is a case of ‘he said, he said’. The tapes, if they exist, are key. If Trump has them he must hand them over immediately. The committee members have vowed to make them public immediately. The sooner this is resolved, the sooner we can move on. Those tapes are at the heart of this conflict. If they exist they could vindicate Trump – or brand him a liar.”
Mr Trump – who denies asking Mr Comey for loyalty – attacked the former FBI head’s testimony as “lies” in a tweet on Friday: “Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication.”
He also seized on Mr Comey’s revelations that he had leaked memos of their conversations to the press, tweeting: “WOW, Comey is a leaker!”
QUOTE FROM NEWSWEEK
Comey told Trump he loved his work and intended to serve out his 10-year term. Because the situation made Comey uncomfortable, he added that he was not “reliable” in the way politicians use the word but that Trump could always count on him to tell the truth.
“A few moments later, the president said, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,’” Comey said in the statement. “I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence.”
Comey wrote that he tried to explain the importance of a Department of Justice and a FBI that were independent of the White House. But near the end of the dinner, Trump repeated, “I need loyalty.”
“You will always get honesty from me,” Comey replied, according to his statement. “That’s what I want, honest loyalty,” Trump responded after a pause. “You will get that from me,” Comey said, explaining in the statement that he wouldn’t push the matter further and that the term—“honest loyalty”—had helped end a very awkward conversation.