Transcript Of James Comey's Opening Remarks Offers A Brand New Perspective
On Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey's opening remarks to the Senate intelligence committee differed from his planned remarks that were originally released on Wednesday.
Rather than reading his planned remarks to the committee, which many had already read and he didn't think needed repeated, Comey decided to go into a few things that he did not address. He focused on the confusion surrounding his firing, including the way his firing was handled afterward by President Donald Trump's administration. He also used the opportunity to say goodbye to his coworkers at the FBI, saying he didn't get the chance to do so because of the abruptness of the situation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, ranking member Warner, members of the committee, thank you for inviting me here to testify today. I've submitted my statement for the record, and I'm not going to repeat it here this morning. I thought I would just offer some very brief introductory remarks and I would welcome your questions. When I was appointed FBI Director in 2013, I understood that I served at the pleasure of the president. Even though I was appointed to a 10-year term, which Congress created in order to underscore the importance of the FBI being outside of politics and independent, I understood that I could be fired by a president for any reason or for no reason at all. And on May the ninth, when I learned that I had been fired, for that reason I immediately came home as a private citizen. But then the explanations, the shifting explanations, 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 great job, and he hoped I would stay. And I had repeatedly assured him that I did intend to stay and serve out the years of my term. He told me repeatedly that he had talked to lots of people about me, including our current Attorney General, and had learned that I was doing a great job, and that I was extremely well-liked by the FBI workforce.
So it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia 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. I was also confused by the initial explanation that was offered publicly that I was fired because of the decisions I had made during the election year. 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. That didn't make any sense to me. And 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. 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.
I worked every day at the FBI to help make that great organization better, and I say help, because I did nothing alone at the FBI. There no indispensable people at the FBI. The organization's great strength is that its values and abilities run deep and wide. The FBI will be fine without me. The FBI's mission will be relentlessly pursued by its people, and that mission is to protect the American people and uphold the constitution of the United States. I will deeply miss being part of that mission, but this organization and its mission will go on long beyond me and long beyond any particular administration. I have a message before I close for my former colleagues of the FBI but first I want the American people to know this truth. The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is and always will be independent. And now to my former colleagues, if I may. I am so sorry that I didn't get the chance to say goodbye to you properly. It was the nor of my life to serve beside you, to be part of the FBI family, and I will miss it for the rest of my life. Thank you for standing watch. Thank you for doing so much good for this country. Do that good as long as ever you can. And senators, I look forward to your questions.
It's interesting to hear Comey accuse the Trump administration of trying to defame the FBI and himself after the firing. It's also interesting to note Comey's initial confusion over his firing, because, as he expressed, Trump had praised his work and so had others, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In Comey's prepared remarks, which were released on Wednesday, he accused Trump of asking for Comey's loyalty, as well as asking Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn. It detailed various meetings with Trump, and also a request from Comey that Sessions not leave him alone with Trump.
With so much happening at the beginning of Comey's testimony alone, there's sure to be a lot revealed throughout the day.