James Comey’s Senate testimony asserted that the Trump administration lied to smear his reputation, and that he leaked details of Trump meetings to the press
By David Smith in Washington | The Guardian | Thursday 8 June 2017 18.21 EDT
The scandal of Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia deepened on Thursday when James Comey, the man he fired as director of the FBI, branded the US president a liar.
At a hearing that riveted Washington and millions across the United States, James Comey said he believed he had been sacked because of the FBI’s investigation into Moscow’s meddling in last year’s presidential election.
Comey’s explosive testimony over nearly three hours asserted:
The Trump administration lied to smear the reputation of Comey and the FBI following his dismissal;
Comey documented every meeting he had with Trump because he thought the president might lie about what had taken place;
He passed details of the meetings – via a friend – to the press in the hope of spurring the appointment of a special counsel;
He believes that Trump directed him to shut down the FBI’s investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Comey also offered a stark view of the underlying issue – “massive” Russian interference in the US election. “There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts.”
In one of the most gripping chapters yet of the long-running Trump/Russia saga, Comey testified under oath to the Senate intelligence committee on Capitol Hill. Bars in New York and Washington DC opened as America’s three major TV networks broadcast live coverage of the hearing, which earned comparisons with Watergate.
His evidence did not deliver a knock-out blow to the Trump presidency, but it nevertheless cast the billionaire Republican’s integrity in a withering light.
Comey said of his own dismissal: “The administration chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying that the organisation was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader.”
“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.”
He told the panel: “It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted. That is a very big deal.”
In a statement for the record released on Wednesday, Comey detailed several meetings with Trump this year, claiming that Trump demanded his “loyalty” and directly pushed him to “lift the cloud” of suspicion by declaring publicly the president was not the target of the Russia investigation.
In his testimony, Comey explained that he documented each meeting because he thought Trump might be dishonest about what had taken place – a practice he never felt obliged to undertake with former presidents George W Bush or Barack Obama.