Ex-FBI director Comey testifies before Senate Intelligence Committee
Former FBI Director James Comey testified as part of a congressional investigation into Russia's possible election meddling on Thursday.
Comey said he has no doubts on Russian interference in 2016 elections, though President Donald Trump did not obstruct the investigation. When asked whether Trump's actions constituted obstruction of an ongoing investigation, Comey said it is not up to him to decide.
Comey said takes Trump 'at his word' that he was fired because of the Russia investigation.
Comey told the panel that he had told Trump several times he was not under investigation. The former FBI head had detailed which Americans were under investigation in intelligence cases, but he noted "the president was not one of those Americans."
Comey stated that he took Trump's request to back off Flynn probe as a "direction." He said that he didn't tell anyone that Trump asked him to "let go" the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn because he was "stunned" by the comment.
In response to a question from Marco Rubio, Comey said he did not have the "presence of mind" to tell Trump in that moment that what he had said was inappropriate.
The Republican senator also asked whether Trump's comment about the Flynn investigation was the only time he asked him to "let it go," and Comey said it was.
Comey said he hoped that his private conversations with Donald Trump were recorded, as the president had suggested in a menacing tweet. He said that 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!"
Comey added that he did not feel need to document private conversations with previous U.S. presidents George W. Bush or Barack Obama he had worked with.
Comey said he had a friend leak a memo of his conversations with Trump to the press in a bid to have a special prosecutor appointed to investigate Russian election interference.
He detailed conversations with Trump that had been leaked to the media, during which Trump had asked Comey to drop a probe into former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
Comey said he made the decision to share his notes of the conversations with the press after Trump suggested there were tape recordings of their meetings that might corroborate Comey's accounts.
The sacked FBI chief said he hoped the move would prompt the appointment of an outside special counsel to investigate.
The Justice Department named Robert Mueller special counsel on the case last month.