James Comey tweets about freedom of the press – minutes after Trump attacked CNN
"Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost," Comey said, quoting Thomas Jefferson.
Former FBI director James Comey's latest tweet was a defense of the press – a quote from Thomas Jefferson's Jan. 28, 1786 letter from Paris to physician James Currie.
"Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost," Comey tweeted Saturday evening along with a picture of the Capitol.
Lifting a quote from a 200-year-old letter that Jefferson had written to the doctor who treated Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson, his daughter, and tweeting it may seem random and innocuous on the surface, but its timing suggests otherwise.
Comey's tweet was sent at 6:08 p.m. Saturday, about a half-hour after President Donald Trump attacked CNN International, the latest in his war against the mainstream press.
CNN's public relations department fired back with a reply to Trump's tweet several minutes later: "It's not CNN's job to represent the U.S. to the world. That's yours. Our job is to report the news."
Many, including some CNN reporters and analysts such as Christiane Amanpour and Jake Tapper, also did not sit silent, and criticized Trump for undermining the work of foreign correspondents in war zones around the world.
Comey, who began tweeting under a pseudonym, has been somewhat active on the social media platform within the past month. Many see his tweets as more than just simple quotations attached to random nature photos. To those who follow Comey's semiregular Twitter activity, his tweets are subtle jabs at political leaders, particularly at the one who fired him.
During Trump's trip to Asia two weeks ago, the president resurrected his attacks against Comey and called him a proven "liar" and "leaker" while speaking with reporters in the press cabin on Air Force One.
Hours later, Comey tweeted a sermon from the late English Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. It was about the difference between a truth and a lie.
"If you want truth to go around the world you must hire an express train to pull it; but if you want a lie to go around the world, it will fly; it is light as a feather and a breath will carry it," Comey said.
The tweet included a picture of the Great Falls of the Potomac. Comey explained hours later that he included the picture because he likes it and it reminded him of his favorite Bible verse. Quoting Amos 5:24, he said, "But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
Comey, arguably one of FBI's most controversial directors, has been criticized, particularly by Trump, for leaking information to the press.
Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, Comey revealed that a tweet by the president – incorrectly suggesting he may have had taped his conversations with Comey – prompted the former FBI director to ask a close friend to leak a private memo he had kept recounting his interactions with Trump.
As reported by the New York Times, Comey wrote in the memo that the president asked him to shut down the federal investigation into Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn during a meeting in the Oval Office in February.
Comey testified before Congress that he immediately documented the conversation in the form of an unclassified memo and discussed it with FBI senior leadership.
In a flurry of early-morning tweets in July, Trump accused Comey of violating the law by leaking classified information.
Criminal violations are hard to justify because Comey had described the document as an unclassified and personal memo, not a government one, even though it was typed in an FBI computer, according to the Washington Post's Fact Checker. Whether it contained privileged information has not been proven.
Comey also may have violated his employment agreement for leaking the memo, but was already out of a job by then.
The Washington Post's Ashley Parker contributed to this report.