Former FBI director James Comey has said he took “as a direction” President Donald Trump’s remark that he hoped he would drop an investigation into his fired national security advisor Michael Flynn.
“I took it as a direction. It’s the President of the United States we me along, saying this is what he is hoping I’m going to do,” said Mr Comey. “I did not obey that. But that the way I took it.”
Testifying on Capitol Hill in what had been one of the most highly anticipated appearances in years, Mr Comey said that when he took on the role of FBI Director in 2013, he understand he served at the pleasure of the president and could be fired at any time.
“I understood that I could be fired by a president for any reason or for no reason at all. And on May the 9th when I learned I had been fired, for that reason, I came home as a private citizen,” he said.
“But then the explanations, the shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me. 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 great job and he hoped I would stay.”
Testifying a day after the publication of a statement from Mr Comey in which he said Mr Trump had repeatedly sought his loyalty and had asked him to drop a probe into his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, the 56-year-old said he was told by the President he was doing well and was surprised to then see him on television giving a different reason for his firing.
“It confused me, when I saw on television that the president was saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation,” Mr Comey said
Mr Comey also accused the White House of trying to defame both him and the FBI, saying it was “poorly led, that it had lost confidence in its leader”.
“Those were lies, plain and simple,” Mr Comey said. “I’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and that the American people were told them.”
Mr Comey also said that while Mr Trump asked him to drop his investigation of Mr Flynn, he never asked him to terminate the broader probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia’s alleged effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Did anyone ever ask you to stop the Russia investigation, Intelligence Committee chairman, Richard Burr, asked Mr Comey. “Not to my understanding, no,” Mr Comey replied.
Mr Comey also said it was not up to him to determine whether Mr Trump’s behaviour amounted to an obstruction of justice. He said that determination should be left up to the Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, who was appointed to head the federal investigation after Mr Comey was fired.
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