James Comey said on Thursday he was disturbed by President Donald trump's bid to get him to drop a probe into the former national security adviser, but the former FBI director would not say whether he thought the president sought to obstruct justice.
Comey told US lawmakers in the most eagerly anticipated US congressional hearing in years that the trump administration had told lies and defamed him and the FBI after the president fired him on May 9.
In written testimony released on Wednesday, Comey said trump had asked him in February to drop an FBI investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn as part of the probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
"I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning," Comey told lawmakers.
The hearing could have significant repercussions for trump's presidency as special counsel Robert Mueller and several congressional committees investigate alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and whether trump's campaign colluded with this.
Russia has denied such interference and the White House has denied any collusion.
trump triggered a political firestorm when he dismissed Comey.
The former FBI head said trump's administration had defamed him in comments made after his firing.
"Although the law required no reason at all to fire the FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader," Comey said.
"Those were lies, plain and simple," he said.
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