Former FBI Director James B. Comey, speaking publicly for the first time since his abrupt dismissal, fired back at the Trump administration, saying the president’s allegations that the bureau was in disarray and poorly led “were lies, pure and simple.”
In front of a packed hearing room and live television audience, Comey provided a detailed account of his interactions with President Donald Trump, the concerns those conversations generated among senior FBI leaders, and the president’s possible interference in the bureau’s Russia investigation.
Comey, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee a month after his firing, said the administration’s “shifting explanations” for his firing were a source of confusion. He said the president repeatedly told him he was “doing a great job and he wanted me to stay.”
Publicly, however, the administration said Comey was deeply disliked at the FBI and that the organization had descended into chaos under his stewardship.
“The administration then chose to offend me and the FBI by saying that the FBI was in disarray, poorly led, had lost confidence in the leader,” Comey said under oath. “Those were lies, plain and simple.”
He apologized to the FBI and the American people for having to hear that. In a message to the bureau and its workforce, Comey apologized for never getting the chance to say goodbye, and said “it was the honor of my life to serve beside you.”
In his written testimony published Wednesday, Comey answered many of the big questions hanging over his dismissal and his interactions with the president. On Thursday, the former FBI director filled in a few of the blanks.
He said he felt compelled to start writing memos after his first interaction with Trump, which took place Jan. 6 when Comey briefed the then-president-elect on the intelligence surrounding Russia’s alleged election hacking and the so-called Steele dossier about purported compromising material the Kremlin has on Trump.
Comey said he immediately jotted down notes after the meeting because of the circumstances, the nature of the matter and the person he was dealing with.
“I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting,” Comey said.