Former FBI Director James Comey said in opening statements before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday that he always knew he could be fired by a president for any reason, even though he'd been appointed to a 10-year term, but President Donald Trump's actions "confused me and increasingly concerned me."
"They confused me because the president and I had had multiple conversations about my job, both before and after he took office, and he had repeatedly told me I was doing a good job and he hoped I would stay," Comey told the committee.
He said he repeatedly told Trump he intended to stay, and Trump had said he'd gotten good reports, "so it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russian investigation and learned again from the media that he was telling privately other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation."
Comey also said he was confused because of the initial explanation that he was fired over decisions he made concerning the investigation of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.
He also accused Trump of telling the American people lies about the FBI's organization being in disarray and being poorly led.
"That didn't make sense to me for a whole bunch of reasons, including the time and all the water that had gone under the bridge since those hard decisions that had to be made," said Comey.
"That didn't make any sense to me, and 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 organization 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 he is sorry the FBI workforce had to hear such statements, and that the American people had to hear them as well.
"I worked every day at the FBI to help make that great organization better and I say help, I did nothing alone at the FBI," said Comey.
"There are no indispensable people at the FBI. The organization's great strength is its values run deep and wide. The FBI will be fine without me. The FBI's mission will be relentlessly pursued by its people."
Comey said the FBI will remain strong and independent and that he was sorry he did not get the opportunity to properly say goodbye to his former colleagues.
"It was the honor of my life to serve beside you, to be a part of the FBI family and I will miss it for the rest of my life," said Comey.
"Thank you for standing watch, thank you for doing so much good for this country."
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