Former FBI Director James Comey accused the Trump administration Thursday of spreading "lies, plain and simple" about him and the FBI in the aftermath of his abrupt firing, in dramatic testimony that exposed deep distrust between the president and the veteran lawman and threatened to undermine Donald Trump's presidency.
Comey disputed the Trump administration's justification for his firing, declaring the administration "defamed him and more importantly the FBI," as he opened his much anticipated first public telling of his relationship with Trump. Comey described discomfort about their one-on-one conversations, saying he decided he immediately needed to document the discussions in memos.
"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."
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Comey made his comments as the packed hearing got underway, bringing Washington and parts of the country to a halt as all eyes were glued on televisions showing the hearing. 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 the president was not the target of the FBI 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. Comey also confirmed Trump's claim that he had told him three times the president was not directly under investigation.