James Comey, former director of the FBI, appeared before the U.S. Senate in a Thursday hearing that captivated an above-average number of Americans who would normally never tune into such committee gatherings. In the hearing, Comey expressed his belief that U.S. President Donald Trump tried to push Comey off of an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and that the President lied to the public about Comey. Comey also said that he gave up all of his memos about interactions with the President to Robert Mueller, the Justice Department’s special counsel in charge of continuing investigation into Russian ties with Trump’s presidential campaign.
Comey opened with a defense of his internal reputation among FBI employees, saying that Trump’s assertion that Comey had lost the confidence of the agency was patently untrue. He also claimed that Trump has defamed him, perhaps alluding to reports that Trump called Comey a “nut job” in a private meeting with Russian diplomats. He then went on to say Trump approached him at one point to ask, “see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.” Comey says that he took that as a direction from Trump, and felt regret over not pushing back in the initial interaction. As for his firing, Comey said that he believes it was a result of the pressure Trump felt over the Russia investigation and the way Comey was handling it.
Comey also talked about the origins of the special counsel investigation, saying he was “inspired” by a tweet sent out by Trump saying that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’” of their meetings. Once that tweet cae out, Comey felt compelled to share some information about their conversation concerning Flynn to The New York Times. As for whether those tapes exist, Comey said in the hearing, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes… If there are, my feelings aren’t hurt. Release the tapes.”