"No collusion, no obstruction, [Comey]'s a leaker, but we want to get back to running our great country," Trump said during a press conference with Romania’s president in the White House Rose Garden. "James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said. And some of the things that he said just weren't true."
Top Trump administration officials looked on as the president delivered his remarks. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross showed up early and sat in the front row. They were soon flanked by White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, counselor Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser Stephen Miller, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Temperatures swelled in the Rose Garden and the White House served lemonade to staff and press alike.
Trump was then asked if he would be willing to testify under oath, as the fired former head of the FBI had earlier this week.
"100 percent," the president replied.
Trump also said he would answer in a "very short period of time" the question about whether tapes of his private conversations with Comey exist.
The president’s insistence that he would, under oath, gladly discuss his private interactions with Comey could pose a risky proposition. At best, Trump could be forced to answer all kinds of politically inconvenient questions. At worst, he would be at risk of committing a felony.
Sworn depositions have been a problem for Trump in his pre-presidential life. Faced with the dilemma of admitting he had lied previously or committing perjury, he has lashed out at lawyers deposing him and walked back dozens of statements that he only admitted were untrue after being sworn in.
But it’s far from clear that Trump will ever actually follow through on his Friday boast. Congressional Democrats quickly seized on the statement and invited him to give sworn testimony. But Trump—or at least his legal counsel on all things Russia, Marc Kasowitz—surely recognizes the pitfalls.
The president couldn’t fight any effort for Congress or investigators to question him under oath by invoking executive privilege, but defense gets more porous every time Trump speaks about Comey and Russia.
“I think there is a legitimate argument to be made that, between his prior public statements on the events regarding which Comey testified and his statements today claiming Comey's testimony was false, the president can no longer assert that executive privilege applies,” said national security attorney Bradley P. Moss.
In the moment, Trump’s statement was a doubling down on the White House narrative surrounding Comey’s testimony. The president, his attorney, and his political allies have claimed it exonerated Trump of any allegations of legal wrongdoing, and that Comey’s statements—which the fired FBI director gave under oath—may themselves have constituted perjury.
The administration won’t yet make that allegation directly or definitively, and the president declined to do so on Friday. But he insisted that he had not, as Comey claimed on Thursday, asked the ousted FBI chief to pledge loyalty to him or ease up on his investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.
For the president, Friday’s press conference wrapped up a work week where Trump did, however, manage to clear a very low bar set for him: He managed to stay basically on-message for a couple of days, and didn’t hate-tweet himself into a legal bind.
“He did it,” one senior Trump aide told The Daily Beast this week, praising the president’s ounce of exercised self-control in the face of Comey-week. “Now let’s see what happens in a few hours when he’s bored and alone and the TV is on.”
—Justin Miller contributed reporting.