Before he fired James Comey as the director of the FBI, Donald Trump was reportedly "obsessed" with disproving claims from the Steele dossier about alleged lewd conduct with prostitutes while in Moscow in 2013. In fact, Comey's memos about his interactions with the president suggest Trump tried to say he effectively had an alibi that disproved the claims.
According to the ousted FBI chief, the president, on multiple occasions, told him he never actually spent the night in Russia, so the salacious story couldn't be true. The trouble, of course, is that there's clear evidence that Trump did, in fact, spend the night in Moscow at the time.
This morning, the president shed new light on the subject, telling Fox News he never made the claims that Comey documented in his memos.
"They're phony memos. He didn't write those memos accurately. He put a lot of phony stuff. For instance, I went to Russia for a day or so -- a day or two -- because I owned the Miss Universe pageant. So I went there to watch it because it was near Moscow."So I go to Russia. Now I didn't go there -- everybody knows, the logs are there, the planes are there. He said I didn't stay there a night. Of course I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time, but of course I stayed. Well his memos said, 'I left immediately' -- I never said that! I never said I left immediately."
At that point, for reasons that were not at all clear, Trump began attacking CNN and accusing Hillary Clinton of getting debate questions in advance.
The comments are worth listening to, rather than just reading, because the president sounded highly agitated and more than a little manic.
Regardless, at a certain level, we're left in a familiar place: Trump's word vs. Comey's word. That's not an ideal place for the reality-challenged president to be, but I imagine some will see this as another dispute in which we can either believe one man or the other.
The context, however, doesn't work in Trump's favor. Comey wrote those memos a year ago, detailing comments the president made at the time. The then-FBI director had no incentive to manufacture these specific details, while Trump does have an incentive to lie now.