Former and current members of President Trump’s legal team have compiled research to make the case that former FBI Director James B. Comey misled Congress in his testimony and is not a reliable witness for special counsel Robert Mueller.
The lawyers last year tried to persuade Mr. Mueller to investigate Mr. Comey, his former colleague, to no avail.
The Trump-Comey war took on new dimensions last week as Mr. Mueller won a guilty plea from former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who admitted to lying to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about a proposed election-year Trump Organization Moscow hotel deal.
“The Cohen plea of lying to Congress by the special counsel raises the very serious question as to why the special counsel has refused to investigate and prosecute the false statements and testimony of James Comey, the main accuser of the president, before the Senate Judiciary and intel committees,” former Trump attorney John Dowd told The Washington Times.
Mr. Dowd and his colleagues filed a complaint with the Justice Department and Mr. Mueller last year. It says, in part, that Mr. Comey was dishonest in May 2017 when he said he never took steps for FBI surrogates to leak stories about Mr. Trump to the news media.
The Washington Times showed the complaints to Mr. Comey’s legal team, which didn’t respond.
SEE ALSO: James Comey to comply with subpoena — as long as he can release transcript to public
In a court filing to quash a Republican congressional subpoena, Mr. Comey rejected as untrue a charge from Mr. Trump that he had leaked classified information.
Trump supporters say that if Mr. Mueller can target Mr. Cohen for lying, then why doesn’t the Justice Department go after others? They mention not only Mr. Comey but also James R. Clapper, former head of national intelligence; Democratic attorney Michael Avenatti; dossier creator Christopher Steele; and his handler, Fusion GPS founder Glenn R. Simpson.
Of the four in addition to Mr. Comey, three involve public charges from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican. They are:
⦁ Mr. Clapper. The Barack Obama appointee testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2013 that the National Security Agency doesn’t “wittingly” spy on Americans in the United States.
The testimony was “clearly erroneous,” as he admitted later in a letter. The NSA collects bulk domestic phone records and some internet communications.
In retirement, Mr. Clapper is a prime Trump critic.
“I really question his ability to — his fitness to be — in this office,” he said on CNN. “I worry about, frankly, access to the nuclear codes.”
⦁ Mr. Avenatti. A fierce Trump critic, the lawyer presented sworn statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of Julie Swetnick, who made a series of sensational gang rape charges against then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. She later retracted some of the charges.
Mr. Grassley sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department accusing Mr. Avenatti of a conspiracy to submit false statements.
Mr. Avenatti, who also represents porn actress Stormy Daniels in her claim of having had an affair with Mr. Trump, dismissed Mr. Grassley as “incompetent” and welcomed an investigation.
⦁ Mr. Steele. The former British spy was paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to dig up dirt on Mr. Trump. He relied on a number of Kremlin sources to level charges for a dossier in his effort to destroy the Trump campaign.
Mr. Grassley sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department, saying Mr. Steele lied to the FBI during the election campaign by telling agents he had not spoken to the news media when in fact he had. Based on his word, the FBI relied on a Yahoo news story to bolster a wiretap warrant only to learn later that Mr. Steele was its source.
⦁ Mr. Simpson. Mr. Grassley sent a letter to a Democratic senator saying Mr. Simpson’s committee testimony conflicted with an FBI report. Mr. Simpson testified that he had no anti-Trump clients after the November 2016 election.
But former Senate Democratic aide Daniel Jones, who, like Mr. Simpson, is an opposition research specialist, told the FBI last year that he had raised $50 million from donors to investigate Mr. Trump and hired Mr. Simpson’s firm.
Trump supporters save their most intense wrath for Mr. Comey, who has emerged as a chief Trump accuser in a memoir and in testimony since the president fired him in May 2017.
As FBI director, Mr. Comey testified that he had never leaked information to the press or arranged for surrogates to leak.
After his firing, he orchestrated an elaborate leak of his memos for the record to The New York Times, using a middleman. They represented his same-day notes of his one-on-one meetings with the president. Among the charges, he accused Mr. Trump of trying to stifle an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Mr. Comey said he leaked the memos to force the appointment of a special counsel, which happened days later. Mr. Comey then became a witness against Mr. Trump for Mr. Mueller, his predecessor as FBI director. As deputy attorney general, Mr. Comey worked closely with Mr. Mueller during the George W. Bush administration.
In June 2017, Marc E. Kasowitz of New York, then a Trump attorney, sent a hand-delivered, 15-page letter to Mr. Mueller listing a number of complaints against Mr. Comey and asking for an investigation. The letter’s purpose was to disparage Mr. Comey as a credible witness.
One letter topic was “Comey’s Pattern of Inaccurate and Incomplete Testimony.”
“Mr. Comey has exhibited a pattern of exaggerated, embellished and materially incomplete and self-serving testimony that cripples the credibility of his accounts on matters large and small,” Mr. Kasowitz wrote.
Mr. Kasowitz said Mr. Comey recounted his Trump meetings with “surrogates” at the FBI in March 2017. Two days after he was fired, surrogates “as he and they have previously planned to do” leaked details to The New York Times about a private dinner Mr. Comey had with the president the previous January, Mr. Kasowitz said. The story matched Mr. Comey’s later description in congressional testimony.
As to Mr. Comey’s May 2017 Senate testimony that he never facilitated Trump leaks while director, Mr. Kasowitz wrote: “While Mr. Comey’s testimony might have been technically correct, it was plainly incomplete and misleading to not have disclosed that he had, in fact, leaked this information to surrogates for the obvious purpose of leaking it in the future in the event he were removed as FBI director.”
Mr. Kasowitz surmised that Mr. Comey’s surrogates must have leaked details of the Trump Tower meeting with the president-elect since the only participants were Mr. Comey and Mr. Trump.
Mr. Dowd told The Washington Times that Mr. Mueller informed him in August 2017 that there would be no investigation of Mr. Comey.
Mr. Dowd then sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mr. Mueller. The letter’s subject line was “Request for Federal Grand Jury Investigation of Former Director James B. Comey.”
“It is particularly troubling that it was Mr. Comey’s plainly deliberate, unlawful conduct and false congressional testimony which precipitated your appointment of Special Counsel Mueller,” Mr. Dowd wrote. “Indeed, Mr. Comey publicly bragged about it.”
Mr. Rosenstein replied via an aide that the Justice Department doesn’t confirm or deny investigations.
‘Error in judgment’
It is not only Mr. Trump’s legal team complaining about Mr. Comey’s conduct.
Corey R. Lewandowski, former Trump campaign manager, tweeted Friday: “U.S. judge delays ruling on ex-FBI director’s request to quash Republican subpoena. Why doesn’t Lyon’ Jim want to testify? He has lied repeatedly to Congress. When will he be prosecuted?”
Mr. Comey last week lashed out at House Republicans in a motion filed in U.S. District Court to quash their subpoena.
A Republican-led House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform task force wanted him to testify behind closed doors on how the FBI launched and conducted its Trump-Russia investigation. Mr. Comey said Sunday that he will testify as requested on Tuesday. Republicans said a private session is appropriate so he can answer questions dealing with classified matters.
In their court filing, Mr. Comey’s attorneys referred to “a poisonous combination of presidential tweets and the selective leaking that has become standard practice for the joint committees.”
“The public record shows members of the Joint Committee leaking what suits them and maintaining the secrecy only of what does not,” they said. Republicans “plan to make him the next victim of their unauthorized and abusive tactics,” the filing said.
In the ongoing investigation into Russia election interference, the FBI relied on the Democrat-financed dossier written by Mr. Steele.
Republicans say Mr. Steele unleashed a number of bogus charges against Mr. Trump and his aides based on disinformation from the Kremlin.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is investigating the FBI’s Russia probe and particularly the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act wiretap on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. The FBI’s warrant applications to a judge were based largely on the unverified dossier.
The Horowitz report on the FBI’s investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails found Mr. Comey guilty of insubordination for hiding from Justice officials his plans to unilaterally clear the Democratic presidential candidate.
Mr. Comey also committed “a serious error in judgment” by sending a letter to Congress without Justice approval, Mr. Horowitz said. The inspector general also said Mr. Comey violated Justice guidelines by using his personal email account to conduct FBI business.
Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney for more than a decade and now a main adversary, pleaded guilty last week to providing the wrong date for when talks between the Trump Organization and Russians ended on building a hotel in Moscow.
He told a Senate committee that the talks ended in January 2016. In fact, talks continued until June as Mr. Trump was about to secure the Republican nomination. Cohen lied to avoid the narrative that Mr. Trump was negotiating with the Russians deep into the campaign. At the same time, Russia had hacked Democratic computers and was preparing to release stolen emails via WikiLeaks.
Participants have said the idea for a Moscow hotel was started by Cohen’s longtime friend, Russia-born real estate developer Felix Sater. Mr. Trump has said the hotel talks were legal but that he took part only sparingly.
Mr. Trump and his chief aides have denied Mr. Steele’s allegations that they engaged in an “extensive conspiracy” to hack computers and troll on social media. No Trump associate has been charged with that offense.