President Trump started off Sunday morning with a series of tweets slamming former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony last week during a closed-door questioning in front of Congress.
“On 245 occasions, former FBI Director James Comey told House investigators he didn’t know, didn’t recall, or couldn’t remember things when asked,” Trump tweeted. “Opened investigations on 4 Americans (not 2) - didn’t know who signed off and didn’t know Christopher Steele. All lies!”
Steele is the former British intelligence officer with the Secret Intelligence Service MI6 who handed over to the U.S. a dossier that alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
During the questioning, Comey said that the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia initially focused on four Americans and whether they were connected to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Comey did not identify the Americans, but said President Trump, then the Republican candidate, was not among them.
The committee released a transcript of the interview on Saturday, just 24 hours after privately grilling the fired FBI chief about investigative decisions related to Hillary Clinton's email server and Trump's campaign and potential ties to Russia. Comey largely dodged questions connected to the current Mueller-led probe, including whether his May 2017 firing by Trump constituted obstruction of justice.
The Republican-led committee interviewed Comey as part of its investigation into FBI actions in 2016, a year when the bureau — in the heat of the presidential campaign — recommended against charges for Clinton and opened an investigation into Russian interference in the election.
The questioning largely centered on well-covered territory from a Justice Department inspector general report, Comey's own book and interviews and hours of public testimony on Capitol Hill. But the former FBI chief also used the occasion to take aim at Trump's frequent barbs at the criminal justice system, saying "we have become numb to lying and attacks on the rule of law by the president," as well as Trump's contention that it should be a crime for subjects to "flip" and cooperate with investigators.
"It's a shocking suggestion coming from any senior official, no less the president. It's a critical and legitimate part of the entire justice system in the United States," Comey said.
In another tweet on Sunday, Trump accused Comey of lying and said the Russia investigation was “a Rigged Fraud."
“Leakin’ James Comey must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day. His Friday testimony was so untruthful!” Trump tweeted. “This whole deal is a Rigged Fraud headed up by dishonest people who would do anything so that I could not become President. They are now exposed!”
Multiple Trump associates, including his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, have pleaded guilty to lying about their interactions with Russians during the campaign and presidential transition period. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's foreign dealings, including to an associate the U.S. says has ties to Russian intelligence, also has attracted law enforcement scrutiny.
Comey reiterated to lawmakers that it was the 2016 encounter between Trump aide George Papadopoulos with a Russian intermediary in London that ignited the Russia investigation, rather than — as some Republicans have maintained — Democratic-funded opposition research compiled by a former British spy.
"It was weeks or months later that the so-called Steele dossier came to our attention," Comey said.
He said that by the time of his firing, the FBI had not come to a conclusion about whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia's efforts to sway the election.
And he insisted that the FBI would recover from the president's attacks on the bureau.
"The FBI will be fine. It will snap back, as will the rest of our institutions," Comey said. "There will be short-term damage, which worries me a great deal, but in the long run, no politician, no president can, in a lasting way, damage those institutions."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.