The deposed FBI director, James Comey, testified before the Senate and delivered his statement on Trump’s alleged intervention in the investigation into Russian involvement in the presidential election.
Watch: Footage from former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony
James Comey, the former chief of the FBI, appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday to give his testimony on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and the possible interference of US President Donald Trump in FBI investigations. After the public hearing, Comey continued to provide details of the investigations in a closed hearing.
According to Comey’s testimony, Trump tried to derail the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. “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,” Comey said. He later explained that “the context and the president’s word are what led me to that conclusion… I understood what he wanted me to do was drop any investigation connected to Flynn’s account of his conversations with the Russians.”
Comey noted that he was “stunned by the conversation” with Trump about Flynn in the Oval Office, and that his colleagues in the bureau were equally shocked by Trump’s inquiry into Flynn’s investigation. Had he listened to Trump, Comey said, “we would have dropped an open criminal investigation.”
Later on in his testimony, Comey explained that the FBI began investigating the Russian cyber intrusions which targeted “at least hundreds” of governmental and non-governmental agencies and which attempted to influence the election campaign. When asked if Trump had requested that he stop the FBI investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 US elections, Comey replied: “Not to my understanding, no.”
Regarding his abrupt dismissal, Comey said in his opening statement that “it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation, and learned again from the media that he was telling privately other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation.”
Later on in his testimony, Comey added that he “was fired because of the Russia investigation. Something about the way I was conducting it, the president felt created pressure on him that he wanted to relieve.” Referring to Trump’s wavering justifications for his dismissal, Comey said: “Those were lies, plain and simple” and accused the Trump administration of defaming both himself and the FBI.
Later, when asked why he felt the need to document his conversations with Trump, Comey replied that he “knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened, not just to defend myself, but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution.” He added that he did not feel the need to record conversations with other leaders that he had interacted with in the past.