(AP/Evan Vucci)

Here's how Republicans are trying to defend Donald Trump

The GOP is going on the offensive after seeing Comey's testimony — but their damage control isn't very good


Matthew Rozsa
June 8, 2017 12:49PM (UTC)

President Donald Trump is going to rely quite heavily on the Republican National Committee and his own legal team to respond to the ongoing scandal involving his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

The RNC has a team comprised of approximately 60 staffers who will attack both Comey and the Democratic Party as the scandal continues to unfold, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. Trump is also relying on his longtime attorney Marc Kasowitz, who said in a statement yesterday that "the president is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the President was not under investigation in any Russian probe. The president feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda."

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The Republicans' talking points about Comey not only contradict previous reports about Trump. They also contradict themselves.

Although they insist that "Comey's opening statement confirms he told President Trump three times that he was not under investigation," they also argue that "Director Comey has a long history of blatant contradictions and misstatements."

Similarly, although they claim that "while investigating the Clinton email scandal, Comey succumbed to political pressure from the Obama White House" and that "this is far worse than anything President Trump is rumored to have said," they cite public comments by Obama that indirectly tried to clear Clinton in the investigation while ignoring the comments that Trump is reported to have said to Comey. Those comments, it must be noted, come from the same statement that Republicans are citing as proof that Comey reassured Trump he wasn't under investigation.

One message being sent out by the RNC to help Trump's cause is that he knew in advance that firing Comey would be "detrimental to his presidency" but did so anyway because it would help the country, according to a report by ABC News. This contradicts initial reports that Trump was taken off-guard by the backlash he faced after terminating Comey.

It is also worth noting that many West Wing staffers are trying to avoid personally taking up the pro-Trump message, according to a report by Politico. As one administration source told the site, "It's fair to say a storm is coming. We're boarding up the windows for the impending hurricane."

Many of them are hoping to keep Trump sufficiently distracted so that he won't tweet during Comey's testimony. That said, the task may be easier said than done, as one official told Politico that "if he wants to watch it, it's not like we can say, ‘oh, the TV doesn't work.'"

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump James Comey Partner Video Republican National Committee Russia

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