WASHINGTON — Today James Comey, the Director of the FBI who President Donald Trump fired abruptly in May, testified under oath this morning before the U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, about his personal interactions with President Donald Trump and any discussions about the investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
The distinguished former FBI director spent over two hours answering Senators’ questions Thursday about his interactions with President Trump, why he was fired last month and his efforts to spur the appointment of a special counsel.
When Comey was asked why Trump fired him suddenly last month, he said that he has one idea.
“It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said. “I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”
At the time he was fired, The White House claimed the abrupt firing was due to his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, that top officials at the Justice Department were recommending he was needed to be fired because the FBI was in “turmoil.”
Then later that week in an interview with NBC Nightly News host Lester Holt, Trump contradicted those White House statements, saying he himself made the decision because he had the Russia investigation against him in his mind when firing Comey.
At the opening of the hearing, Comey said he was “increasingly concerned” about the constant changing explanations the White House was offering for his firing, but in particular he lashed out at suggestions of the FBI being in a state of chaos.
“The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led,” Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple. And I’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry the American people were told them.”
When asked about private meetings with the president, Comey said he had nine interactions with Trump and began taking detailed notes after their first meeting in January.
During his three years as FBI director Comey and Obama met privately just twice, and never took notes on those interactions.
“I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting,” Comey said.
After Comey’s public testimony, White House spokeswoman said “No, I can definitely say the president is not a liar,” Sanders said. “I think it’s frankly insulting that that question would be asked.”
After Comey was fired, news articles began to appear with details of his discussions with Trump, and in some cases the stories cited notes the former FBI director kept of those interactions.
Comey admitted he helped arrange at least one of these reports, alluding to a New York Times story published on May 16 claiming Trump asked him to abandon the investigation into Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.
In response to a Senator question, Comey said that he was then prompted to leak the memo after Trump tweeted on May 12 a suggestion that recordings may exist of their meetings. According to Comey, he then asked former federal prosecutor and Columbia Law School professor Dan Richman to share the memos with reporters.
“As a private citizen, I felt free to share that,” Comey said. “I thought it was very important to get it out.”
Comey said his decision to release the memo was done specifically in the hopes a special prosecutor would be appointed, since he knew Attorney General Sessions would likely recuse himseslf from the investigation, though Comey would not specifically say why he thought the attorney general would to so.
Comey said he has since provided his memos to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is also a former FBI director appointed to investigate the Trump administration.
The reasons Attorney General Jeff Sessions could not remain involved in the probe but that those reasons involved classified information Comey said when asked about this by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
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