James Comey, former director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, on Thursday stated in his testimony before a Congressional committee that President Donald Trump fired him in an attempt to undermine the investigations into possible collusion between his 2016 presidential campaign team and Russia.
Not mincing words, Comey said the Trump administration had told ''lies'' and defamed him and the FBI after the president dismissed him on 9 May. The Trump administration had cited differing reasons for James Comey's firing which were later contradicted by President Trump himself, after he acknowledged on 11 May that he fired Comey because of the Russia probe.
When asked at the US congressional hearing why he was fired, Comey said he did not know for sure. But he added, ''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 Senate Intelligence Committee that he believed President Trump had asked him to drop the FBI investigations involving former national security adviser Michael Flynn as part of the Russia investigation. However, Comey would not say whether he thought the president sought to obstruct justice.
Comey said he wasn't in a position to assess whether president's comments amounted to obstruction of justice. ''I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning,'' Comey told the committee.
Meanwhile, President Trump, in a speech, told supporters they were ''under siege'' and vowed to fight on.
''We're under siege … but we will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever,'' he said. ''We will not back down from doing what is right. We know how to fight and we will never give up,'' the president said.
James Comey's testimony could further mire Trump's administration in legal difficulties. Allegations revolving around Trump's campaign colluded with Moscow to influence the 2016 presidential elections are now being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller and several congressional committees.
Comey stated about the remarks made by Trump administration after his firing saying that the bureau was in disarray and that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader: ''Those were lies, plain and simple.''
Republican Senator Marco Rubio had asked former FBI director James Comey whether he perceived the president's request to let the 'Flynn matter' go as an order given Trump's position as president, to which Comey replied: ''Yes.''
A White House source said Trump disputes two key points in Comey's testimony: first, that he asked the FBI director to let go of the Flynn probe, and second, that he asked for Comey's loyalty.
Trump keeps mum
Trump's son Donald Trump Jr issued a series of tweets attacking Comey but the president himself stayed off social media while the drama played out in Congress. Comey said he felt he needed to get his account of his conversations with Trump in the public sphere.
Comey further said he felt the need to get his account of his conversations with Trump in the public sphere in the hope that it might prompt the appointment of a special counsel, which later occurred.
Comey admitted that he showed copies of his memo memorialising his talks with President Trump to people outside the Justice Department and ''asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter.''
Comey said he shared the memo with ''a professor at Columbia Law School, a reference to Daniel Richman, who confirmed to Reuters he was the person Comey referred to in his testimony.
'Hope there are tapes'
In his testimony, Comey said he did not know whether there are tapes of his conversations with Trump but said he hoped there were and that they should be made public. ''Lordy, I hope there are tapes,'' Comey said
Meanwhile, reacting to Comey statements at the congressional, Trump attorney said the president has ''never, in form or substance'' directed former FBI director James Comey to stop investigating anyone. That includes former national security adviser Flynn.
Marc Kasowitz, Trump's lawyer, said that the president is ''entitled to expect loyalty'' from those serving the administration. But he says Trump never told Comey, ''I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,'' in form or substance, as Comey claimed.