Comey accuses Trump of telling ‘lies, plain and simple’
SACKED Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey has launched a scathing attack on Donald Trump, accusing him of telling "lies, plain and simple".
Mr Comey has appeared before a US Senate hearing investigating whether Russia interfered with the 2016 election and whether anyone in the President's camp helped.
Mr Comey told the Congress that he was "confused" and increasingly concerned over the "shifting explanations" for why Mr Trump abruptly fired him on May 9.
The White House initially said he was sacked because of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal, where she was heavily criticised for hosting classified information on her personal email server.
But Mr Trump offered a different explanation in a subsequent interview, saying he had long planned to fire Mr Comey because he was a "showboat" and a "grandstander" who had put the FBI into "turmoil".
Mr Comey told the hearing that the Trump administration "chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying the organisation was in disarray".
"Those were lies, plain and simple, and I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them," he said.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters after Mr Comey's testimony: "I can definitely say that the President is not a liar. It's frankly insulting that that question would be asked."
Mr Comey told the hearing that he believed he was fired over how he was conducting the Russia investigation.
COMEY FEARED TRUMP WOULD 'LIE' ABOUT THEIR MEETINGS
The former FBI chief explained how he was so concerned about his encounters with the President that he took notes straight after each meeting.
"I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so I thought it really important to document it," Mr Comey told the hearing.
His concerns "led me to believe I've got to write it down and I've got to write it down in a very detailed way".
"I knew there might come a day when I might need a record of what had happened not just to defend myself but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution," Mr Comey said.
He added that he did not feel the need to take any notes after conversations with Mr Trump's predecessors Barack Obama and George W Bush.
In his seven-page statement, released before his testimony, Mr Comey described a "very awkward" one-on-one dinner at the White House where Mr Trump said "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty".
Mr Comey said the dinner was designed to "create some sort of patronage relationship".
"My common sense told me that what's going on here is he's looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job," he told the hearing on Thursday.
Mr Comey said he felt "uneasy" about the loyalty pledge.
"The reason that Congress created a 10-year term (for the FBI director) is so that the director is not feeling as if they're serving with political loyalty owed to any particular person," he said.
"The statue of justice has a blindfold on because you're not supposed to be peeking out to see whether your patron is pleased or not with what you're doing."
Speaking to reporters after the testimony, Mr Trump's personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz denied that the President ever asked for Mr Comey's loyalty.
"He never said it in form and he never said it in substance," he said.
Mr Comey also described his "very disturbing" conversation with the President in the Oval Office, where Mr Trump asked him to "let go" of the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had resigned over his questionable ties to Russians.
The former FBI director said he took the comments "as a direction" to drop the investigation into General Flynn, which Mr Comey declined to do.
He was also concerned that Mr Trump shooed everyone out of the room, including Attorney-General Jeff Sessions and senior adviser Jared Kushner, before their conversation.
"My impression was something big is about to happen; I need to remember every single word that is spoken," Mr Comey said.
One senator asked why Mr Comey did not tell Mr Trump at the time that he felt his request about General Flynn was improper.
"Maybe if I were stronger I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in," he said.
Mr Trump's lawyer denied that Mr Trump had ever asked Mr Comey to "let Flynn go".
Mr Kasowitz also denied that the President had pressured Mr Comey in any way.
James Comey has revealed that he leaked his own memos of his meetings with Donald Trump in the hope that it would lead to a special prosecutor being appointed to investigate the President's request to drop the probe into Michael Flynn.
Mr Trump tweeted in May that "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations".
During his testimony, Mr Comey said: "I've seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.
"I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night, because it didn't dawn on me originally, there might be corroboration, a tape.
"And my judgment was I need to get that out into the public square."
He gave his memos to an unnamed friend, who worked at Columbia Law School, to pass on to a journalist.
"I asked him to, because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel," Mr Comey said.
Mr Kasowitz attacked Mr Comey for leaking the contents of their conversations.
"Today, Mr Comey admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorised disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the President," he said.
Donald Trump has long dismissed the investigation into Russian meddling with the election and press coverage on the same issue as "fake news" designed to explain Hillary Clinton's loss.
But Mr Comey has said unequivocally that the Russians definitely did influence the poll.
"There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during (the) 2016 cycle," Mr Comey said.
"They did it with purpose, they did it with sophistication, they did it with overwhelming technical efforts and it was an active-measures campaign driven from the top of that government.
"It's not a close call. That happened. That's about as un-fake as you can possibly get."
US President Donald Trump has put a positive spin on the bombshell testimony from sacked Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey.
Mr Trump's lawyer Marc Kasowitz zeroed in on one aspect of Mr Comey's seven-page statement, released on Wednesday: the fact that he told the President three times that he was not personally under investigation by the FBI.
"The President is pleased that Mr Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the President was not under investigation in any Russian probe," Mr Kasowitz said in a statement.
"The President feels completely and totally vindicated.
"He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda."
Mr Kasowitz also told reporters Thursday afternoon that "there is no evidence that a single vote changed as a result of any Russian interference" in the election.
"Mr Comey's testimony also makes clear that the President never sought to impede the investigation into attempted Russian interference in the 2016 election and, in fact, according to Mr Comey, the President told Mr Comey 'It would be good to find out' in that investigation if there was 'some satellite associates of his who did something wrong'," Mr Kasowitz said.
The lawyer's comments came after Mr Comey released a detailed account on all of his uncomfortable meetings with Mr Trump.
Mr Comey claims that Mr Trump repeatedly demanded Mr Comey's loyalty, that Mr Trump urged him to "let go" of his investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and that he later pressured him to "lift the cloud" of the FBI probe into Russian meddling in the election.
The juiciest part of Mr Comey's statement was his account of a "very awkward" one-on-one dinner he had with Mr Trump in the White House soon after his inauguration.
"I need loyalty, I expect loyalty," the President said, according to Mr Comey.
"I didn't move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed," Mr Comey said in his statement.
"We simply looked at each other in silence."
Mr Comey said the dinner was designed to "create some sort of patronage relationship".
In another encounter, which Mr Comey described as "very concerning", Mr Trump asked Mr Comey to "let go" of its investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had resigned over his questionable ties to Russians.
"He is a good guy and has been through a lot," Mr Trump said, according to Mr Comey.
"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."
In a later phone call on March 30, Mr Trump asked Mr Comey to "lift the cloud" of suspicion on Mr Trump over the FBI investigation into whether the Russians interfered with the US election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign helped out.
Mr Comey took questions from both Republican and Democratic senators at the hearing.
Anticipation for the testimony was at fever pitch, with many US TV stations broadcasting the hearing live.