Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Fired FBI Director Comey faces Senate and rebuts Trump

Published:Friday | June 9, 2017 | 6:00 AM
Former FBI director James Comey listens to the committee chairman at the beginning of the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, yesterday, in Washington. (AP)

WASHINGTON (AP):

Testifying under oath in a Senate hearing watched worldwide, former FBI Director James Comey accused the Trump administration yesterday of defaming him and the FBI in the aftermath of his abrupt firing by President Donald Trump.

"Those were lies, plain and simple," Comey said of the administration's claims that the FBI was poorly led and in disarray under his leadership, and that agents had lost confidence in him.

"The administration chose to defame me, and more importantly, the FBI," he said.

He also said he was "confused and increasingly concerned" by Trump's shifting explanations for firing him, including Trump's remark that he had had Russia on his mind in dismissing Comey four years into a 10-year term.

"He had repeatedly told me I was doing a great job and he hoped I would stay," Comey said. "So it confused me when I saw on television the president told me that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation."

And Comey told senators why he had decided what he must document every meeting he had with Trump, with a written record.

"I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, so I thought it really important to document," Comey said. "I knew there might come a day when I might need a record of what happened, not only to defend myself, but to protect the FBI."

Comey made his comments as the packed hearing got under way, bringing Washington and parts of the country to a halt as all eyes were glued on the hearing room. He immediately dove into the heart of the fraught political controversy around his firing as he elaborated on written testimony delivered Wednesday. In that testimony, he had already disclosed that Trump demanded his "loyalty" and directly pushed him to "lift the cloud" of investigation by declaring publicly that the president was not the target of the probe into his campaign's Russia ties.

Comey also testified in his written testimony that Trump, in a strange private encounter near the grandfather clock in the Oval Office, pushed him to end his investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.