The world waited nearly a day before the tweet finally came.
All day Thursday, many people expected President Trump to weigh in but he had nothing to say â on his preferred medium of Twitter or anywhere else. He let others do his talking.
During James B. Comeyâs extraordinary Senate testimony, it was Donald Trump Jr., the presidentâs 39-year-old son, who played his fatherâs usual role of Twitter foil, firing off snarky Âput-downs.
âIs this a joke?â Trump Jr. asked at one point.
It then fell to Marc Kasowitz, the presidentâs personal lawyer, to deliver Trumpâs formal response: a scathing, pugnacious rebuttal declaring the presidentâs innocence, implying that Comey lied under oath and labeling the former FBI director a âleaker.â
Trump let Kasowitz have the last word â at least for the Âmoment.
Friday morning he finally took to Twitter, posting, âDespite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication…and WOW, Comey is a leaker!â
Earlier in the week the president had been spoiling for a fight with Comey, but he was convinced by Kasowitz and his senior aides to stay cool and lie low, according to about a dozen White House officials and other Republicans close to Trump, some of whom spoke only on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy.
âThe best thing said on this is nothing,â said former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Trump friend and former Justice Department official. âKasowitz, who is a fine lawyer, answered it â and I know from personal experience that he has the Âpresidentâs trust.â
Kasowitz and White House advisers, including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Counsel Donald F. McGahn, argued to Trump that they had a rapid-response operation in place Thursday to defend him as vociferously as he would defend himself, according to people familiar with the Âdiscussions.
Trump agreed Wednesday not to directly engage on Comey, and by the time the ousted FBI director took the witness stand, tweeting âwas not something he was considering,â one senior White House official said.
âKasowitz was able to persuade the president that he would not give a Washington-style, tepid defense,â said a top Republican figure who is close to the White House. âTrumpâs big charge with his staff is that they donât defend him aggressively. And Kasowitz convinced him that not only will I defend you, but I will attack Comey where thereâs room to.â
Kasowitz, a New Yorker who most recently defended Bill OâReilly against allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News Channel, has counted Trump as a client on and off for many years. His combative presentation was on full display Thursday as he read from a statement that contained two typos. (He misspelled âpresidentâ as âpredisent,â and the surname of Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats as âCoates.â)
Trump watched some of Comeyâs testimony in the morning with legal and political advisers in a small dining room off the Oval Office outfitted with a 60-inch television, but his aides also scheduled counterprogramming in the form of meetings and Âpublic events.
Later in the morning, for instance, as Comey was stilltestifying, Trump met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster about foreign policy issues.
Trump sent no tweets, ignored questions about Comey called out by reporters and stuck largely to his script by not mentioning the issue in a speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition. The one potential exception came in a line he delivered in the context of religious liberty that could also be interpreted as an indirect reference to the Russia probe.
âWe are under siege, you understand that,â he said.
Trumpâs advisers and allies â some of whom consider the presidentâs Twitter presence self-destructive â celebrated the restraint he displayed during the day and kept their fingers crossed as the sun started to set. âItâs not âmission accomplishedâ yet,â one ally said Thursday evening.
Trump, who is known to record major congressional hearings and other cable news shows on his TiVo device, was almost certain to flip on the television after retiring to his private living quarters after dinner, one White House official said. That may explain his delay in reacting. Sometimes Trump takes hours or even days before launching tweetstorms, taking time to absorb and stew over how an event is being covered in the media before responding.
Throughout the day Thursday, the White House sought to Âproject an air of calm.
âIn terms of the mood in the White House, I would say that itâs a regular Thursday at the White House,â said principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. âWeâre carrying on.â
Lara Trump, one of the presidentâs daughters-in-law and a former campaign aide, entered the White House press room Thursday afternoon and told reporters that she had just met privately with Trump and âhe looks very relaxedâ and is doing âas well as anyone could doâ under the Âcircumstances.
Trump considers himself to be his most effective spokesman and advocate â something his actual spokesman, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, is quick to remind reporters.
Several people close to the president pointed to Kasowitz as the most obvious explanation for Trumpâs sudden restraint, recalling that Trump has often spoken of the attorney as a âkillerâ in the positive sense.
âMarc is one of the few people who can speak as if he was Trump himself,â said Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media, a conservative media organization, and a longtime Trump associate. âHis reputation as a tough, no-nonsense New York litigator fits well with the presidentâs view that the best defense is a strong offense.â
Trumpâs frequently impulsive and incendiary tweets may galvanize his base of supporters, but they create political headaches in Washington for him and his staff. Trumpâs advisers have conceded that his comments about Comey and the Russia investigations have sometimes been unhelpful to the presidentâs cause and only expanded âthe cloudâ over them, using one of Trumpâs phrases for the controversies that surround the White House.
âIt shows the president understands the possible legal ramifications,â said Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign adviser. âEverybody was waiting for the tweets, but there was nothing to gain. Itâs important that ÂKasowitz, who is rough around the edges, was guiding him. Trump trusts heâs not trying to settle, so he will listen.â
Veteran Washington lawyers described Trumpâs restraint as surprising based on his history of lashing out at critics, but fitting for how a president should behave during thorny legal Âmoments.
âItâs a really good thing that the presidentâs not tweeting, and itâs a good thing that heâs letting his lawyer talk,â said Jack Quinn, a former White House counsel under President Bill Clinton. âSo much of the difficulty that the White House now faces is the product of the presidentâs own words, which have simply provided ammunition to those who want to rev up this investigation.â
With an ongoing federal probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election â being led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, after Comeyâs May 9 firing â they said caution was the wisest course of action.
âI donât think he needs to be in front of the cameras. Itâs fine for his lawyer to make a statement,â said C. Boyden Gray, who served as White House counsel for George H.W. Bush. âIt was appropriate, as well as pretty routine.â
The discretion inside the West Wing did not extend to the Republican Party or to members of the Trump family.
At the Republican National Committee, dozens of staffers issued a barrage of tweets and barbed statements. One RNC email sent to reporters Thursday morning criticized Comey as being âagainst leaks before he was for themâ and said he was âforced to admit that he leaked his ownÂ memo.â
The RNCâs Twitter account used the hashtag #BigLeagueTruth â a reference to Trumpâs frequent use of the phrase âbig leagueâ â to mock the witness as âJames âI could be wrongâ Comey.â
Donald Trump Jr. and other high-profile Trump supporters also took to social media and television with rebukes. During the Comey hearing, the Drudge Report, a conservative website, made sure to link to Donald Trump Jr.âs Twitter account with the headline âDONALD JR: LIVE.â
Typing out live reactions to his more than 1.6 million followers, Donald Trump Jr. cast his father as vindicated by Comeyâs testimony and responded to Comeyâs uncertainty about whether he was pressured to back down.
âKnowing my father for 39 years when he âorders or tellsâ you to do something there is no ambiguity, you will know exactly what he means,â Trump Jr. wrote.
When a conservative operative wrote that Donald Trump Jr. was the âbest followâ of the day, the presidential son replied: âThanks. That was fun.â
On Capitol Hill, Republican allies were relieved by Trumpâs relative calm.
âHe avoided any temptation to respond to what the Democrats were saying,â Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) said. âI think they convinced him there was no reason for him to say anything, to not get bogged down in the swamp. Be presidential, go out and do the job, and donât take the bait.â
Abby Phillip contributed to this report.