The highly anticipated testimony of former FBI director James Comey captivated those in Washington and throughout the US. Although Comey released a full statement a day before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, his testimony Thursday (8 June) did not lack exciting, tweetable moments.
Comey claims President Trump is a liar
The ex-FBI chief told the committee he was "confused" and "concerned" when he heard Trump claim he had been fired for a variety of reason, including running the FBI poorly.
"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 the organisation was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce has lost confidence in its leader," Comey said. "Those were lies, plain and simple."
Comey later denied Trump's claim that Comey had reached out to the president and told him he was not under investigation. He noted he may have called the White House switchboard, but only did so after being asked. "But I never initiated a communication with the president," Comey stated.
The former director was concerned Trump would lie about their meetings
When asked why he decided to document his meetings with Trump in memos, Comey explained he believed the president would lie about those encounters.
"I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting," Comey said. "It led me to believe that I gotta write it down, and I gotta write it down in a detailed way...I knew that there might come a day where I might need a record of what happened, not just to defend myself and the FBI and the integrity of our situation, and the independence of our function."
"Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?"
Comey fielded several questions from both Republican and Democratic senators as they aimed to establish whether Trump had pressured Comey to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Senator James Risch noted that Trump used the word "hope" instead of directing Comey to end the probe. "I took it as a direction. He's the president of the United States," Comey replied.
He later reiterated that he considered Trump's suggestion an "order," and quoted Henry II's famous quote about Thomas Becket. "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" Becket would be dead two days later.
Comey said he would welcome the release of any alleged recordings of his interactions with the president if they exist. Trump previously suggested he had overtly recorded his conversations with Comey.
"Look, I've seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes," Comey said to Senator Feinstein. His remark quickly took off on Twitter. He later noted that he would agree for the supposed tapes be released.
Comey confirmed he leaked memos to the press
Comey acknowledged that he orchestrated the leak of his memos to the press through a close friend, Columbia Law Professor Daniel Richman.
"I asked a friend of mine to share the content of a memory with the reporter," Comey said. "I didn't do it myself for a variety of reasons, but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel."