WASHINGTON:Ousted FBI chief James Comey accused the White House of lies and defamation Thursday, beginning explosive testimony against Donald Trump that threatens the future of his young presidency.
After solemnly raising his right hand and vowing to tell the whole truth, a visibly aggrieved Comey kicked-off his testimony with a bid to set the record straight about the state of the bureau he led until he was sacked last month.
“Although the law requires 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 organisation was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the work force had lost confidence in its leader.”
“Those were lies plain and simple,” Comey said, firing a shot of tension through hearing room 216 of the Senate’s Hart building, which stood silent except for the shutter clicks of a phalanx of photographers, there to capture this moment of pure political theatre.
Detailing private talks with a sitting president ─ which under normal circumstances would never see the light of day ─ Comey described pressure from the commander-in-chief that he found “very disturbing” and “very concerning.”
Comey said he hoped that his private conversations with Donald Trump were recorded, as the president had suggested in a menacing tweet.
Testifying before a Senate committee, Comey said he felt the need to document the interactions ─ during which he says Trump urged him to drop a probe into a former aide ─ for fear the president might “lie” about their meetings.
He directly addressed Trump’s suggestion, saying: “I’ve seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.” Three days after he fired the FBI chief last month, Trump tweeted: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”