Trump Says Qatar Funding Terror 'On Very High Level' After Tillerson, Pentagon Call on Gulf States to Ease Blockade

Trump accuses Comey of lying during Senate committee hearing, insists testimony vindicates him

President Donald Trump with Romanian President Klaus Werner Iohannis shake hands during their joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Friday, June 9, 2017.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday called on Qatar to stop funding of groups that commit terrorism, saying the Gulf nation had historically done so "at a very high level." 

"No civilized nation can tolerate this violence or allow this wicked ideology to spread on its shores," Trump told reporters at the White House, where he was holding a joint news conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. An hour earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Pentagon urged the Gulf states to ease the blockade on Qatar.

Trump also accused former FBI chief James Comey of lying under oath during his testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Thursday. He inisted that the testimoney showed that he had not attempted to obstruct justice in conversations the two officials held. 

"Yesterday showed no collusion, no obstruction," Trump said. "He's a leaker but we want to get back to running our great country," Trump said of Comey. 

“That was an excuse by the Democrats, who lost an election they shouldn’t have lost,” he said. “It was just an excuse, but we were very, very happy, and frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said, and some of the things that he said just weren’t true.”

He further denied telling Comey he hoped the FBI chief could let go of an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, adding he was willing to give his version of events under oath. 

"I didn't say that," Trump told reporters when asked about Comey's account relating to the investigation into Flynn. Asked if he would be willing to give his version of events under oath, Trump replied: "100 percent." 

Just an hour before Trump slammed Qatar, Secretary of State Tillerson urged Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to ease their blockade against Qatar, saying it was causing unintended humanitarian consequences and affecting the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed relations with the small Gulf Arab state on Monday, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and their arch-adversary Iran, charges Qatar calls baseless. 

"We call on the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to ease the blockade against Qatar," Tillerson said in a brief statement to reporters. Tillerson said the blockade was causing food shortages, the forced separation of families and children being pulled out of school. 

"We believe these are unintended consequences, especially during the holy month of Ramadan," he said. 

"Our expectation is that these countries will immediately take steps to de-escalate the situation and put forth a good faith effort to resolve their grievances they have with each other," Tillerson said. 

The blockade is also hindering U.S. military action in the region and its campaign against Islamic State, he said. More than 11,000 U.S. and coalition forces are at al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, from which more than 100 aircraft operate. 

At the same time, Tillerson said Qatar has a history of supporting groups across a wide political spectrum, including those that engage in violence, and that the emir of Qatar had made progress in halting financial support for terrorism but that he must do more.

Shortly after Tillerson's remarks, the Pentagon said that while the Qatar blockade was not affecting current operations against ISIS, it was "hindering" the ability to plan for long-term operations.