Ousted FBI Director James Comey declared Thursday he and the FBI were “defamed” by President Trump and his administration.
He further called White House accusations of mismanagement at the bureau he once led “lies, plain and simple.”
At the outset of his highly anticipated testimony before the Senate intelligence committee, Comey declined to recite his opening statement, released Wednesday, recounting numerous uncomfortable interactions with Trump. Instead, he opened by reiterating his understanding that as FBI director he served at the pleasure of the president and could be fired “for any reason, or no reason at all.”
“Although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, 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,” Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple. And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I am so sorry that the American people were told them.”
Trump’s initial stated reason for firing Comey was the latter’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, as laid out in a memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
In the days that followed, the White House cycled through a series of justifications for Comey’s firing, including mismanagement of the FBI and low workforce morale, until finally it was reported that Trump told Russian diplomats the firing relieved the pressure of the FBI’s investigation into the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 election. Trump also told the Russian officials that Comey was a “nut job.”
Comey said Thursday that while he accepted his termination, the “shifting explanations confused and increasingly concerned me.”
“The FBI is honest,” he said to close his remarks. “The FBI is strong. And the FBI is, and always will be, independent.”
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Photos: James Comey testifies at Senate hearing