James Comey, the former FBI director forced from his job by President Donald Trump, gave his much anticipated testimony to the Senate intelligence committee Thursday morning, and immediately accused the Trump administration of lying and the president of firing him over the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election. The question now: Are there tapes of his meetings with the president?
Here are some of the top moments of the sometimes startling hearing.
"Those Were Lies"
Comey, whose written testimony was released in advance of his appearance, opened the hearing by saying the Trump administration had lied to the American people about the FBI when it said that the agency was in disarray and poorly led and that its agents had lost confidence in their director.
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"Those were lies, plain and simple," Comey said.
The former FBI director said that he understood that despite his 10-year term he could be dismissed by the president at any time for any or no reason, but he also said Trump told him several times that he was doing a good job, and he was puzzled by Trump’s explanations over why he was fired.
"The shifting explanations confused me and increasingly concerned me," Comey said.
Comey later said that he wrote memos after his conversations with Trump because he thought they would eventually become public and he was concerned about the nature of the person he was dealing with.
"I was honestly concerned that he might lie," Comey said.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, said in response: "I can definitely say the president's not a liar."
"Lordy, I Hope There Are Tapes"
After Trump tweeted on May 12 that "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" Comey said his reaction was the opposite.
"Lordy, I hope there are tapes," he said.
Comey went on to say that if there were tapes he would want them to be made public.
"Release all the tapes," he said. "I'm good with it."
Sanders said after Comey's testimony that she did not know of any taping system at the White House and joked that she would check under the couches.[[427258551, C]]
Why had Comey not told the president that the request was inappropriate? Comey said that maybe if he had been stronger, he would have.
"I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in," Comey said.
Trump kept off Twitter during Comey's testimony but his son Donald J. Trump Jr was tweeting in his defense.
"So if he was a 'Stronger guy' he might have actually followed procedure & the law?" Donald Trump Jr. wrote. "You were the director of the FBI, who are you kidding?"
Comey Leaked His Memo
Comey testified that he woke up in the middle of the night and thought, "Holy cow, there might be tapes." And if there were, he needed to get his memo concerning fired national security adviser Michael Flynn out into the "public square," he said.
Comey said that he asked a friend at Columbia Law School, later identified as professor Dan Richman, to leak the memo to a reporter in the hopes that it would prompt a special counsel. On May 16, The New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt wrote an article about Trump's request to Comey that he back off the investigation into Flynn.
"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," Comey wrote the president asked him. "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."
On May 18, the U.S. Justice Department named former FBI chief Robert Mueller as a special counsel to investigate any Russian interference in the election.
Donald J. Trump Jr.'s response: "Once again he's right way before anyone else sees it... and they found another leaker today."
Trump's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, accused Comey in a statement of "unauthorized disclosures" of "privileged communications" he had with the president.
"A Medieval Moment"
Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent, asked Comey whether he thought Trump was giving him a directive when he said he hoped Comey could "let this go."
Yes, Comey answered. "It rings in my ear as kind of, 'Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?'"
"I was just going to quote that," King said. "In 1170, December 29, Henry II said, 'Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest,' and then the next day he was killed, Thomas a Becket. That's exactly the same situation."
The men were quoting a version of a plea long attributed to Britain's Henry II, frustrated with his nemesis, the archbishop of Canterbury, with whom he battled over the rights of the Catholic Church. Becket was assassinated.
The line had a starring role in the 1964 drama "Becket," with Richard Burton as Becket, and Peter O’Toole as the king.
But Donald Trump Jr. wrote that there would be no doubt if his father had issued an order.
"Knowing my father for 39 years when he "orders or tells" you to do something there is no ambiguity, you will know exactly what he means," Donald Trump Jr. tweeted.
Trump's lawyer, Kasowitz, later said that the president had "never, in form or substance," directed Comey to stop investigating Flynn.
The Specter of J. Edgar Hoover
At a Jan. 6 meeting, Comey briefed Trump on a salacious and unverified dossier compiled by a former British intelligence official that included claims about Trump and prostitutes — accusations Trump has strenuously denied.
Comey called the encounter a "J. Edgar Hoover-type situation."
"I didn’t want him thinking that I was briefing him on this to sort of hang it over him in some way," Comey said.
Sessions' Involvement "Problematic"
Comey let out some tantalizing information about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from any investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the presidential election.
Speaking of the FBI's leadership, Comey said, "We also were aware of facts that I can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic. And so we were convinced, and I think we'd already heard that the career people were recommending that he recuse himself, that he was not going to be in contact with Russia-related matters much longer, and that turned out to be the case."
"They're Coming After America"
Comey emphasized he had no doubt that Russia had interfered in the U.S. presidential election last year, with purpose and sophistication and driven from the top of the government. Countering Trump, who has repeatedly dismissed the allegation as a hoax and fake news, Comey called it as "un-fake as you can possibly get."
"There is no fuzz on that," he said.
Comey went on to deliver an impassioned plea that the country see the Russian behavior as a threat to America, which he described as a "big messy wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time, but nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for except other Americans."
Russia is a foreign country trying to shape how Americans think and vote, he said.
"That is a big deal," he said. "And people need to recognize it. It's not about Republicans or Democrats. They're coming after America, which I hope we all love equally."
CORRECTION (June 9, 2017, 12:45 p.m.): An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to Shakespeare as a source of the quotation "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" The playwright included a similar line in his play Richard II.