In front of Congress and the public Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey put a broader mission ahead of securing his own legacy: preserving the independence and integrity of the FBI.
The Director was unceremoniously fired last month amid an evolving roster of reasons given by the Trump administration: First, a Justice Department memo pointing to a crisis of leadership at the FBI and Comey's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. Then, in a May 11 interview, Trump told NBC's Lester Holt he was going to fire Comey "regardless of the recommendation" from the Justice Department, labeling the ousted director a "showboat" and "grandstander."
"Although the law required 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 workforce had lost confidence in its leader," Comey said Thursday on Capitol Hill.
"I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting"
Then, Comey gave a nod to the 35,000 employees of the Bureau, a few of whom reportedly attended the hearing to show their support.
"Those were lies, plain and simple. And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I'm so sorry that the American people were told them."
Washington-types had been counting down the days until Comey took the stand, arguably the most-anticipated Congressional testimony in decades. The saga of Comey's firing just more than 100 days into Trump's presidency touched on nearly every flashpoint tied to the new administration: the investigation into Russia's election meddling, the resignation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and a record of potentially coercive statements by Trump himself.
"I knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened, not just to defend myself, but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution and the independence of our investigative function," Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee. Comey said he believed he wrote memos after each of the nine conversations he had with Trump.
"I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting so I thought it important to document," Comey said.
Trump officials had hinted that the President might live-tweet his reactions to Comey's testimony. While Trump's twitter account remained silent throughout the morning, eldest son Donald Trump Jr. tweeted up a storm, posting or re-tweeting more than 50 thoughts over the course of the morning.
Trump watched the hearing, but was also focused on other matters, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee told The New York Times. “I can definitively say the president is not a liar," Sanders said Thursday in response to a question about Comey's testimony, "and frankly I’m insulted by that question."