Image copyright AFP Image caption A sketch of Boris Johnson’s fall in Parliament
Joining a school of parliamentary interrogators, Boris Johnson has admitted lying to parliament over Donald Trump’s fake news – then described himself as “totally in the clear”.
In a primetime Commons session, the Foreign Secretary told MPs he never lobbied Trump on behalf of Russian interests.
But he was angrily rebuked by some Tory MPs who said he had been “lying” about the incident.
“It was certainly a lie,” said one MP. “The Prime Minister should not have trusted your utterances,” said another.
The apology came after Mr Johnson confessed he had been “wrong” to have tweeted on 5 November, with the instruction to “tweet in French to avoid trouble”.
It also followed a series of explosive revelations about his previous comments about a Russian spy attack on the Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, and the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
Mr Johnson said he was “totally in the clear” over his briefings to media in the early 1990s, when he was tipped to be Tory leader.
“I was totally unmindful of the diplomatic sensitivities,” he said.
The Foreign Secretary is on a trip to Vietnam with Theresa May – but he has not yet been asked to make the accompanying statement to the Commons in his place.
‘No pressure on Trump’
Mr Johnson had originally claimed in a Sky News interview that when he met Mr Trump, “it was the first time I had met the President since his election, on a regular basis, since he became President”.
But he told MPs: “I made no representations, no representations on behalf of Russian interests, any Russian interests, ever.
“I did make representations on behalf of the US to help bring about a resolution in Syria, and I am absolutely in the clear on that, it was a mistake to have tweeted.”
He told MPs: “I did make a mistake to have tweeted and tweet, don’t you think.”
But the leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom said Mr Johnson had no credibility and cannot be taken seriously as a foreign secretary as a result of his behaviour on the floor of the House of Commons.
Mr Johnson was only back in the Commons “as a show”, she added.
Conservative MP Helen Grant said: “You have been very keen to prove it’s OK to lie in the Commons, now you are trying to confirm it”.
Also in the Commons debate, former minister Penny Mordaunt told the Foreign Secretary he should go.
She said she wrote to her Tory colleagues on Wednesday to say it was time for Boris Johnson to go.
“The man is lying to parliament. He has ruined our reputation. He should go,” she said.
BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Emma Barnett said what he had done was “unprecedented”.
Image copyright RTE Image caption Is Boris Johnson’s past behaviour really ‘unprecedented’ ?
Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said the culture of the Westminster whips has long been to operate with ruthless cleverness – “when a sensitive piece of information becomes available which they don’t think is very helpful to the party leader”.
“However it looks on the surface, there was no legal pressure on the president,” Mr Clegg told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“This is a Prime Minister who was kept fully informed, who made a proper, dramatic, show of her displeasure that Boris had felt his need to – on behalf of Trump, not the president’s motherland – to get on the airwaves.”
Mr Johnson had earlier claimed he had no idea a junior Foreign Office minister, Alan Duncan, had accompanied him to the dinner and that it was entirely accidental that Mr Duncan had declared on his diary as a matter of routine.