“I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Mr Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a public hearing. “Something about the way I was conducting it, the president felt, created pressure on him he wanted to relieve.”
The former intelligence official made no mistake about the significance of this conclusion.
“I was fired in some way to change … the way the Russian investigation was being conducted," he said later in the hearing. "That is a very big deal.”
The FBI’s investigation includes a probe into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia. Mr Trump has said in previous interviews that he fired Mr Comey after concluding that reports about his campaign's ties were "made up".
"When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, 'You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,'" he told NBC's Lester Holt.
He also reportedly told Russian officials that he “faced great pressure” over their country, and that it was “lifted” after Mr Comey’s firing.
The statements sparked outcry among many in Washington, who believed they showed intentional obstruction of justice on the president's part.
The biggest names involved in the Trump-Russia investigation
The biggest names involved in the Trump-Russia investigation
1/11 Paul Manafort
Mr Manafort is a Republican strategist and former Trump campaign manager. He resigned from that post over questions about his extensive lobbying overseas, including in Ukraine where he represented pro-Russian interests.
2/11 Mike Flynn
Mr Flynn was named as Trump's national security adviser but was forced to resign from his post for inappropriate communication with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. He had misrepresented a conversation he had with Mr Kislyak to Vice President Mike Pence, telling him wrongly that he had not discussed sanctions with the Russian.
3/11 Sergey Kislyak
Mr Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, is at the centre of the web said to connect President Donald Trump's campaign with Russia.
4/11 Roger Stone
Mr Stone is a former Trump adviser who worked on the political campaigns of Richard Nixon, George HW Bush, and Ronald Reagan. Mr Stone claimed repeatedly in the final months of the campaign that he had backchannel communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that he knew the group was going to dump damaging documents to the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton - which did happen. Mr Stone also had contacts with the hacker Guccier 2.0 on Twitter, who claimed to have hacked the DNC and is linked to Russian intelligence services.
5/11 Jeff Sessions
The US attorney general was forced to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation after it was learned that he had lied about meeting with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
6/11 Carter Page
Mr Page is a former advisor to the Trump campaign and has a background working as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch. Mr Page met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Mr Page had invested in oil companies connected to Russia and had admitted that US Russia sanctions had hurt his bottom line.
7/11 Jeffrey "JD" Gorden
Mr Gordon met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republian National Convention to discuss how the US and Russia could work together to combat Islamist extremism should then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump win the election. The meeting came days before a massive leak of DNC emails that has been connected to Russia.
8/11 Jared Kushner
Mr Kushner is President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a key adviser to the White House. He met with a Russian banker appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December. Mr Kushner has said he did so in his role as an adviser to Mr Trump while the bank says he did so as a private developer. Mr Kushner has also volunteered to testify in the Senate about his role helping to arrange meetings between Trump advisers and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
9/11 James Comey
Mr Comey was fired from his post as head of the FBI by President Donald Trump. The timing of Mr Comey's firing raised questions around whether or not the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign may have played a role in the decision.
10/11 Preet Bharara
Mr Bahara refused, alongside 46 other US district attorney's across the country, to resign once President Donald Trump took office after previous assurances from Mr Trump that he would keep his job. Mr Bahara had been heading up several investigations including one into one of President Donald Trump's favorite cable television channels Fox News. Several investigations would lead back to that district, too, including those into Mr Trump's campaign ties to Russia, and Mr Trump's assertion that Trump Tower was wiretapped on orders from his predecessor.
11/11 Sally Yates
Ms Yates, a former Deputy Attorney General, was running the Justice Department while President Donald Trump's pick for attorney general awaited confirmation. Ms Yates was later fired by Mr Trump from her temporary post over her refusal to implement Mr Trump's first travel ban. She had also warned the White House about potential ties former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to Russia after discovering those ties during the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's connections to Russia.
Mr Comey said these comments eventually lead him to believe he had been fired over the Russia investigation.
“I watched his interview, I’ve read the press accounts of his conversations, so I take him at his word there,” the former FBI director said on Thursday.
He did not offer an opinion on whether Mr Trump had committed obstruction of justice.
The White House provided multiple different explanations for Mr Comey's firing in the days after his dismissal.
At first, officials claimed Mr Comey was dismissed for improperly handling the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server. They cited two Justice Department memos on the matter as swaying the president's hand.
Later, Mr Trump told reporters he fired Mr Comey because he was doing a "bad job". He expanded on these comments in his interview with Mr Holt, in which he also insisted he had acted independently of the Justice Department's recommendation.
"I was gonna fire regardless of recommendation," Mr Trump said at the time.
The president has not commented publicly on Mr Comey's testimony.Reuse content