Ousted FBI chief James Comey twice accused President Trump of spreading lies Thursday — and he was just an hour into his three-hour-long Senate hearing.
Testifying as part of a congressional probe into Russian meddling in the presidential election, the former top G-man said the president “lied” and “defamed” him when he claimed the FBI was in “turmoil” under Comey’s leadership.
“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. That the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple,” Comey said.
Trump made the claim during an NBC News interview last month while explaining why he fired the intelligence agency chief in May.
Comey also explained that he felt compelled to keep records of Trump’s comments to him during a January sitdown at Trump Tower because he believed the president might later lie about what was discussed.
“I was alone with the president of the United States. I was talking about matters that touch on the FBI’s core responsibility and that related to the president-elect personally. Then [there was] the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting, so I thought it really important to document,” Comey said.
The remarkable statement showed the level of distrust between Trump and Comey, who said he never documented any conversations with Presidents Bush or Obama.
Comey admitted Trump never asked him to drop the federal probe, but said he interpreted the president’s request — in which he said he “hoped” Comey would drop the matter — to mean that that’s what Trump wanted.
“I took it as a direction. He’s the president of the United States, with me alone, saying, ‘I hope this [happens].’ I took it as this is what he wants me to do,” Comey told a Senate committee.
Either way, Comey wouldn’t go so far as to speculate on whether the president had obstructed justice with his comments, saying it was up to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is also an ex-FBI director.
“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, but that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work towards to find out the intention and whether that’s an offense,” he told the Senate committee.
He added that no votes had been changed as a result of the Russians meddling in the election.
“No,” he flatly declared when asked about Trump bringing up any other cases.
Comey also further discussed his sudden ouster from the bureau, saying he understood that he could be fired, but that the shifting explanations offered by Team Trump confused him because the president had told him he was doing a great job.
“On May the 9th when I learned I had hadn’t fired, and that evening, I came home as a private citizen, then the explanations, the shifting explanations confused me and increasingly concerned me,” he said.
“They confused me because the president and I had had multiple conversations about my job, both before and after he took office. And he had repeatedly told me I was doing a good job and he hoped I would stay.”