Former FBI Director James Comey on Thursday accused President Donald Trump of firing him to try to undermine the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between his 2016 presidential campaign team and Russia.
Comey also told senators in the most eagerly anticipated U.S. congressional hearing in years that the Trump administration had told lies and defamed him and the FBI after the president dismissed him on May 9.
The administration gave differing reasons for Comey’s firing. Trump later contradicted his own staff and acknowledged on May 11 that he fired Comey because of the Russia probe.
Asked at a U.S. congressional hearing why he was fired, Comey said he did not know for sure.
But he added, “Again, I take the president’s words. I know I was fired because of something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was in some way putting pressure on him, in some way irritating him, and he decided to fire me because of that.”
Comey earlier told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he believed Trump had directed him to drop an FBI probe into the Republican president’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn as part of the Russia investigation.
But Comey would not say whether he thought the president sought to obstruct justice.
Trump critics say that any efforts by the president to hinder an FBI probe could amount to obstruction of justice. Such an offence potentially could lead to Trump being impeached by Congress, although the Republicans who control the Senate and House of Representatives have shown little appetite to make such a move against him.