Former FBI director James Comey has accused President Donald Trump of firing him to try to undermine the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between his 2016 presidential campaign team and Russia.
Trump dismissed Comey on May 9 and the administration gave differing reasons for the action. Trump later contradicted his own staff and acknowledged on May 11 that he fired Comey because of the Russia probe.
He told senators at the Senate Intelligence Committee overnight Trump’s administration defamed him in comments made after his May firing by saying the bureau was in disarray and the workforce had lost confidence in him.
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“Those were lies, plain and simple,” Comey said.
“Again, I take the president’s words. I know I was fired because of something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was in some way putting pressure on him, in some way irritating him, and he decided to fire me because of that.”
Comey earlier told the hearing that he believed Trump had
directed him to drop an FBI probe into the Republican president’s former
national security adviser as part of the Russia investigation.
Comey said he interpreted Trump’s wording “I hope you can let this go” about the Flynn investigation as a direction.
Dressed in a dark suit and giving short, deliberative answers, Comey painted a picture of an overbearing president who pressured him to stop the FBI looking into Flynn.
In more than two hours of testimony, Comey did not make any major new revelations about alleged links between Trump or his associates and Russia.
Comey would not say whether he thought the president sought to obstruct justice. He said he began to keep notes after meetings with Trump because he “was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, so I thought it really important to document”.
“I knew there might come a day when I might need a record of what had happened not just to defend myself but to defend the FBI and our integrity,” he said.
Comey said Trump sought his loyalty in order for him to keep his job, detailing a January dinner. “He’s looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job,” Comey told the committee.
Comey said the administration had told lies and defamed him and the FBI after the president dismissed him.
Trump’s personal lawyer, Mark Kasowitz, said afterwards Comey’s testimony proved the president was not under any investigation and there is no evidence a single vote was changed as a result of Russian interference in last year’s election.
Comey’s remarks are his first since he was fired.