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White House: When Trump Said He’d Testify, He Didn’t Mean to Congress

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

President Trump will not testify before Congress under oath, a development that legal experts say was expected but that illustrates the pitfalls of the president’s tendency to shoot from the hip in public remarks. Trump said at a Friday press conference that he would “100%” agree to give sworn testimony in response to former FBI director James Comey’s allegations last week. On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the president was “specifically asked whether or not he would talk to Director Mueller,” the special counsel investigating alleged Russian election meddling, under oath. In fact, Trump was asked generally about giving sworn testimony rebutting Comey’s allegations that the president asked him to pledge loyalty and to ease up on the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Asked a follow-up about Mueller specifically, the president said he would speak with him as well. Congressional Democrats were giddy at the prospect of grilling Trump under oath, but experts say that testimony was probably never going to happen. “I think that was expected,” said national security attorney Bradley Moss. “Having the President testify before Congress raises significant separation of powers concerns. The last to do it was Gerald Ford and all others since have adamantly refused.” But Moss and his law partner Mark Zaid say the president didn’t seem aware of that fact during his remarks on Friday. “This Presidency is marked like none other by a White House tendency to reinterpret the specific words of the President. Every time that happens its credibility suffers,” Zaid said in an email.

—Lachlan Markay