Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, provided a brief six minute response to the Comey hearing this morning and refused to take questions.
Let’s break that defense down into three general categories. First of all, both the president and most Republicans are determined to highlight the statements from Comey about Trump not being personally under investigation. That ignores one of the critical things Comey said during the hearing in response to questions about whether or not the president attempted to obstruct justice.
“I don’t think it is for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct,” Comey said. “I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work toward: to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that’s an offense.”
It sounds like Trump is now the subject of an investigation by Mueller into whether or not he attempted to obstruct justice.
In the second category, Kasowitz said that Trump never suggested that they “let Flynn go” and never asked for Comey’s loyalty. In other words, he wants to make this a he said/he said between Trump and Comey. As Ed Kilgore wrote today, “Trump is not going to win a credibility contest with James Comey.” A president whose supporters have to refer to “alternative facts” and parse out whether he should be taken “literally” or “seriously” is going to lose that contest every time. And that isn’t even taking into consideration that Trump lies an average of five times a day. This is precisely where the president’s mendacity will come back to haunt him.
Finally, Kasowitz accused Comey of being one of those horrible leakers for giving information about “privileged communication” between Trump and Comey to the press. He also said that Comey couldn’t have done so in response to Trump’s tweet about there being tapes, because the story in the New York Times came out before the tweet. This fails on several layers. To understand why, it is helpful to look at the timeline of events.
May 9 – Trump fired Comey and issued a memo in which he recounts some of that so-called “privileged communication” (i.e., Comey told the president he wasn’t under investigation three times).
May 11 – Trump is interviewed by Lester Holt. The president again recounts that “privileged communication” between he and Comey.
May 11 – The New York Times published a story about the January 27th dinner between Trump and Comey in which the president asks for loyalty in exchange for keeping his job. Trump had also talked about this dinner during his interview with Holt.
May 12 – Trump tweeted that Comey better hope there are no tapes of their conversations.
May 16 – The New York Times published a story on Comey’s memo regarding his meeting with Trump in the Oval Office in which the president asked him to drop the Flynn investigation. This is the memo Comey was referring to at the hearing when he said that he had asked friends to leak it to the press.
As you can see, not only did Kasowitz get the dates and stories wrong, he is accusing Comey of leaking information that his own client leaked as well. There was nothing “privileged” about those conversations.
If this is the best Trump’s lawyers can do, he is in really big trouble.