WASHINGTON (CBS) — Former FBI Director James Comey spoke publicly for the first time since President Donald Trump fired him in May.
Comey testified Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
When Comey abruptly lost his job, the FBI was investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties between the president’s associates and Russia.
Comey took an oath before the committee and then testified about how his interactions with Trump made him uneasy and concerned.
“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. Those were lies, plain and simple,” Comey said.
Comey told lawmakers he documented all of his conversations with Trump, which had not been his practice with former President Barack Obama.
“I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting,” Comey said.
Comey said he had three in-person meetings with Trump. At one, he said the president asked for loyalty. At another, he requested that Comey let the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn go.
“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 told the committee.
Some senators pushed Comey about his lack of a response when Trump asked him to back off the investigation into Flynn.
“Why didn’t you stop and say, ‘Mr. President, this is wrong. I cannot discuss this with you.’?” Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked.
Comey responded, “That’s a good question. Maybe if I were stronger, I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, asked Comey if he believes Hillary Clinton would’ve fired him if she was president.
“I might have been, I don’t know. Look, I’ve said before that was an extraordinarily difficult and painful time. I think I did what I had to do, I knew it was going to be very bad for me personally, and the consequences might have been if Hillary Clinton was elected I might have been terminated. I really don’t know.”
Trump fired back following Comey’s testimony.
“We’re under siege, you understand that,” the president said. “But we will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever, you watch.”
Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s personal attorney, denied the president ever asked to stop the investigation.
“The president never suggested that Mr. Comey quote let Flynn go,” said Kasowitz.
Kasowitz slammed Comey for leaking the material.
“We will leave it to the appropriate authorities to determine if these leaks should be investigated with all the others that are being investigated,” Kasowitz added.
Several Republicans say they do not see evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the president, but Democrats say there is a cloud of suspicion over Trump’s conduct.
“Director Comey’s firing and his testimony raise separate and troubling questions that we must get to the bottom of,” said Sen. Mark Warner, leading Democrat on the committee.
Trump is watching the hearing with his personal lawyer who released a statement Wednesday night saying the president already feels “completely and totally vindicated.”
Comey confirmed to lawmakers he told Trump three times he was not personally being investigated.
Comey met with members of the committee in a closed-door session to discuss classified information.