Former FBI director James Comey came out swinging Thursday, accusing President Trump’s team of “lies” during his opening remarks to the Senate Intelligence Committee and telling the American people the “FBI is honest, the FBI is strong and the FBI is and always will be independent.”
At the same time, he also told lawmakers that Trump did not ask him to end the Russia investigation.
“Not to my understanding, no,” he said, when asked by Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C. He also said he could not say whether Trump’s conversations with him amounted to obstruction of justice.
The opening was mostly barbs, though.
Comey accused the administration of defaming him and that comments made about his competency “were lies, plain and simple.”
Comey also told senators he decided to document meetings he had with Trump because he was “honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, so I thought it was really important to document.”
“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,” he added.
Comey has not spoken publicly since his dismissal on May 9. He was four years into a 10-year term when Trump fired him. The timing fueled claims that Trump was trying to kill the investigation into Russia and obstruct justice.
Burr told Comey he looked “forward to an open and candid discussion” and told the former FBI chief that it was his “opportunity to set the record straight.”
The public got its first glimpse of Comey’s side of the story Wednesday after the Senate committee released his written statement. The seven-page statement provided details about uncomfortable conversations and silent standoffs between the former FBI director and President Trump.
Comey not only laid out details about the Russia investigation but also took aim at Trump’s preoccupation with having his name publicly cleared as well as the president asking him to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Comey claimed the conversations became so awkward that he took steps to avoid any one-on-one time with Trump.
Comey said he spoke directly with Trump a total of nine times — three in person and six over the phone. According to his written testimony, Comey “felt compelled” to keep a detailed log after each conversation, something he hadn’t done with former President Barack Obama.
Comey’s dramatic opening remarks detail five separate exchanges he had with Trump, beginning with a meeting at Trump Tower in New York before Trump was sworn in as president. That briefing focused on the investigation into Russia’s election meddling as well as lascivious claims Trump had been involved with prostitutes in 2012 – a claim the White House has strongly denied.
The second meeting took place Jan. 27 at the White House. According to Comey, during a one-on-one dinner, Trump asked him if he wanted to keep his job – a question that the former FBI director found strange because in two prior conversations he had had with Trump, Comey assured him he intended to stay. Comey claims that he interpreted the question as “an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship.”
At that same dinner, Comey says Trump demanded loyalty from him.
“I need loyalty. I expect loyalty,” Comey recalled Trump saying.
In response, Comey said he “didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence.”
During a Feb. 14 face-to-face meeting at the White House, Comey said Trump asked him to drop the FBI investigations into Flynn. Comey said the president told him: “‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
“I replied only that ‘he is a good guy.'” Comey wrote, describing a private meeting with Trump in the Oval Office on Feb. 14, then added: “I did not say I would ‘let this go.'”
(First reported by Fox News) http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/06/08/comey-testimony-ex-fbi-boss-says-trump-team-lied-but-president-didnt-ask-to-end-russia-probe.html
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