Former FBI Director James Comey Thursday testified that he has taken President Donald Trump "at his word" that he was fired because of the investigation into Russian collusion with the president's campaign team.
"[There was] something about the way I was conducting it, that the president felt created pressure on him, that he wanted relieved," Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I didn't know that at the time, but I've watched his interview; I read the press accounts of his conversations. I take him at his word there."
He admitted he could be wrong, as Trump could be "saying something that's not true," but as for what he knows now, "I take him at his world."
Comey, meanwhile, said he did not know for sure what to think when Trump asked him about his loyalty, as he didn't know the president well enough to read him well.
"The relationship didn't get off to a great start, given the conversation I had to have on Jan. 6," Comey said, referring to a dinner with the president. "This didn't improve the relationship because it was very, very awkward. He was asking for something and I was refusing to give it. But again, I don't know him well enough to know how he reacted to that exactly."
Comey said the dinner made him uncomfortable to the point that he decided to document it when he got into his car.
"First, I was alone with the president of the United States, the president-elect, soon to be president," Comey said. "The subject matter, I was talking about matters that touch on the FBI's core responsibility and that relates to the president-elect personally. Then the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting, so I thought it really important to document."
Comey said he ended up keeping records after nearly all of his nine conversations with Trump, as he knew a day would come that he might need to defend himself or the FBI and "our integrity as an institution and the independent investigative function."
He admitted that he spoke with former President Barack Obama just twice in three years, but he didn't feel the need to document those conversations.
"When I was deputy attorney general I had one, one-on-one meeting with President George W. Bush and one national security member," Comey said. "I didn't write a memo. I remember a quick e-mail to my staff to let them know there was something going on. I didn't feel with President Bush the need to document it that way. Again the combination of those factors, I was present either with President Bush or President Obama."
Comey also said that even though there was a case file opened on then president-elect Trump, there was not a counterintelligence investigation of him at that time, and he decided to tell Trump that, given the nature of the conversation.
Earlier in his testimony, Comey testified there was "no doubt" that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections, or that the Russian government was behind the intrusions in the DNC's servers and the subsequent leaks, but at the same time, he said he is confident no votes that were cast were altered.
"When I left as director, I had seen no indication of that whatsoever," Comey said.
Further, he told Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-NC, Trump never asked him at any time, "to my understanding" to stop the FBI's investigation into Russian involvement in the election.
However, Trump did ask him to drop the investigation into former National Security Agency Michael Flynn's contacts with Russia.
"Gen. Flynn at that point in time was in legal jeopardy," Comey said. "There was an open criminal investigation in his connection with the Russian contacts and the contacts, themselves. So that was my assessment at the time. I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that's a conclusion I'm sure the special council will work to find out the intention and whether that's an offense."
He said it is also possible that the FBI could find evidence of Russian criminal actions that have nothing to do with the election cycle.
"In any complex investigation, when you turn over a rock, sometimes you find things that are unrelated to the primary investigation criminal in nature," Comey said.
Comey also testified that it is normal for foreign governments to reach out to members of an incoming presidential administration, but it's difficult to say when normal contacts cross the line.
"Again, it's difficult to answer in the abstract," Comey said. "But when a foreign power is using, especially coercion, or some sort of pressure to try to co-opt an American official, it's serious, and at the heart of the counterintelligence mission."
Comey also commented on his decision not to pursue criminal charges against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, admitting it was influenced in an "ultimately conclusive way" by the meeting between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and ex-President Bill Clinton.
"I had to do something separately to protect the credibility of the investigation, which meant both the FBI and the Justice Department," he said.
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