'Release all the tapes': Comey accuses Trump administration of 'lies' and defamation

WASHINGTON, June 8 (Reuters) - 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 FBI's fired former director would not say whether he thought the president sought to obstruct justice.

Comey told U.S. lawmakers in the most eagerly anticipated U.S. congressional hearing in years that the Trump administration had told lies and defamed him and the FBI after the president dismissed him on May 9.

Comey has said Trump 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 U.S. presidential election.

RELATED: Reactions to James Comey's Senate testimony

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Reactions to James Comey's Senate testimony
This is history in the making, folks. #ComeyDay #ComeyTestimony #TimeToSetTheRecordStraight #ComeyPleaseSaveUs https://t.co/BvLx0eWjdY
At some point I hope he tells us what he's been binge watching on Netflix since he lost his job #ComeyTestimony
What idiot decided to call it the #ComeyTestimony instead of James and the Giant Impeach?
#comey "It confused me when I learned on television that I was fired over the Russia investigation." #ComeyTestimony
I hope this #ComeyTestimony pilot gets picked up for a full season. It's a bit House of Cards meets American Horror Story, but it's solid.
Comey has now said that Trump has aimed to defame him and the FBI. He literally just called Trump a liar. #ComeyTestimony
Do you have any doubt of Russia's interference in the 2016 election? Comey: None #ComeyTestimony
Comey: "The FBI is honest, the FBI is strong. The FBI is and always will be independent." #ComeyTestimony
Was the FBI able to confirm any allegations in the dossier? "not a question I can answer in an open setting" #ComeyTestimony
If you're tweeting about ANYTHING other than #ComeyTestimony right now...don't. This is maybe the most important thing this year. #comeyday
Sure sounds like the Steele dossier is “credible,” but honestly is anyone at this point surprised? #ComeyTestimony
Maaaaaan this ain't no Super Bowl #Comey #ComeyTestimony #Testicomey
"Not a question I can answer in an open setting"? Come on Comey you don't have a job to lose. #ComeyTestimony
Twitter waiting on Trump tweets #ComeyTestimony https://t.co/pCUiZJoCnR
Comey: Bill Clinton's meeting with AG Loretta Lynch contributed to his decision to publicly discuss Clinton email probe. #ComeyTestimony
One thing is CLEAR: Comey is a highly respected, former member of our government. I can feel the sadness of many. #ComeyTestimony
"I was concerned he might lie." -- former FBI director about the President of the United States. #ComeyTestimony
Now we know what Trump whispered into Comey's ear: "I really look forward to working with you" #ComeyTestimony https://t.co/d0Ij5kYYnV
Comey says he was confused when @realDonaldTrump kept asking him if he wanted the job after telling him 3x he could stay. #ComeyTestimony
Comey on Oval mtg: "I'm 56 yo. I've seen a few things...I knew something was about to happen that I needed to pay very close attention to."
It's sad that I enjoy this far more than I do watching any sporting event. #ComeyTestimony #DCSuperBowl
Comey just gave a good lecture on using leaked info, which is often wrong or misleading #ComeyTestimony
"I take the President at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation." - #ComeyTestimony
Comey on Trump's loyalty demand: "I don't know the president well enough to read him well. … it was very awkward." #ComeyTestimony
Comey: Lordy, I hope there are tapes. #ComeyTestimony
Feinstein with the most important Q so far: why didn't you tell #Trump this wasn't appropriate? #ComeyTestimony
"Nice job you got there. 'I hope' nothing happens to it." #ComeyTestimony
Whoever is in charge of hiding the president's phone this morning deserves a raise. #ComeyTestimony
"... the odor of Presidential abuse of power is so strong." - Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon. #ComeyTestimony
"A J. Edgar Hoover situation" can mean a lot of things. #ComeyTestimony
Comey is a really good, experienced witness #ComeyTestimony
OK. The written testimony needed to be pre-reading for ALL of the senators. #ComeyTestimony
I've never wanted Trump to tweet so badly in my entire life. Pick your phone up! Do it!! DO IT!!!!
"A gut feel" = why #ComeySays he kept memos of Trump meetings #ComeyTestimony
#ComeyTestimony "The Russians interfered in our election in 2016-2017... there is no fuzz on that... that's about as unfake as you can get"
Why did he kick everyone out….As an investigator that's a very significant act. #ComeyTestimony
"They'll be back," Comey says of election meddling by the Russians. #ComeyTestimony
Comey says he broke date night with his wife to attend dinner with President Trump. Moral of story, never break date night? #ComeyTestimony
Comey on leaking to the media: "Like feeding seagulls at the beach"
"I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." Front pages today @BostonGlobe @bostonherald #ComeyTestimony @boston25 https://t.co/fIjAlmwqDe
#comey was asked if he thought he would've been fired if Hillary Clinton was president: "I don't know." #ComeyTestimony
Comey: If @realDonaldTrump taped me, 'my feelings aren't hurt. Release all of the tapes. I'm good with it' #ComeyTestimony
"That's Bob Mueller's job to sort that out." When asked whether this arises to obstruction of justice. #ComeyTestimony
Laughter as Comey says he's 'between opportunities' right now. #ComeyTestimony
Senators have 7 minutes to ask questions; not sure why they waste 90 seconds of it on waffle-y preamble #ComeyTestimony
Trump's lawyer expected to make a statement after the Comey hearing finishes #ComeyDay #ComeyTestimony
“I’m not sure if he’s watched any of” #ComeyTestimony, “it’s a regular Thursday of the White House,” says @SHSanders45.
If Comey didn’t trust Trump, he should have resigned. #ComeyTestimony
"I was fired to change the way the Russian investigation was being conducted." #ComeyTestimony
"I'm not going to sit here and try to interpret the president's tweets." - Comey #ComeyHearings #ComeyDay https://t.co/HLXrGxWHZ8
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"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 the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Russia issue has dogged Trump's first months in office, distracting from Trump's policy agenda such as overhauling the U.S. healthcare system and making tax cuts.

Comey's accusations could further mire Trump's administration in legal difficulties, 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 Moscow.

Russia has denied such interference and the White House has denied any collusion.

Trump triggered a political firestorm when he dismissed Comey, and Democrats accused the president of trying to limit the Russia probe.

SEE ALSO: House Speaker Paul Ryan cites President Trump's lack of experience amid FBI Russia probe

The former FBI head said Trump's administration had defamed him in comments made after his firing by saying that the bureau was in disarray and that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader.

"Those were lies, plain and simple," Comey said.

LOYALTY?

Comey said Trump did not attempt to get him to drop the overall Russia investigation, just the part of if that related to Flynn, who the president fired in February for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the extent of his conversations last year with Russia's ambassador to the United States.

As Comey was testifying, a White House source said Trump disputes two key points in Comey's testimony: that he asked the FBI director to let go of the Flynn probe, and that he asked for Comey's loyalty.

Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. fired off a series of tweets attacking Comey but the president himself stayed off social media while the drama played out in Congress.

Trump critics say that any efforts by the president to hinder an FBI probe could amount to obstruction of justice.

Some legal experts said Comey's testimony could strengthen any impeachment case in Congress to remove Trump from office built on an allegation of obstruction of justice.

SEE ALSO: Comey reveals what Trump whispered in his ear in their infamous handshake photo

Laura Donohue, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center said Trump may have broken the law, adding, "If the president directed Comey to drop the investigation, with an improper purpose, then it is a violation of the law."

Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, said, "Nothing I've heard so far changes my view that the president did not obstruct justice."

While a sitting president is unlikely to face criminal prosecution, obstruction of justice is an offense that could trigger the impeachment process in Congress.

Stocks were little changed as Comey's testimony kicked off, as investors continued to see it as unlikely that Comey's testimony would lead to an end to Trump's presidency.

At one point in the hearing, Republican Senator James Risch pressed Comey on whether Trump had actually directed him to drop the Flynn investigation.

"He did not order you to let it go?" Risch asked.

"Again, those words are not an order," Comey said. "I took it as a direction. If it is the president of the United States, with me alone, saying 'I hope this' - I took it as 'this is what he wants me to do.' I didn't obey that, but that's the way I took it," Comey said

When asked later on whether he took Trump's comments as a directive, Comey, "Yes."

RELATED: James Comey testifies On Russian interference In US election

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James Comey testifies On Russian interference In US election
Former FBI Director James Comey is sworn in prior to testifying before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 8: People watch a ticker tape display showing headlines of the days news that former FBI Director James Comey will testify at a Senate hearingon Russia and U.S. President Donald Trump on June 8, 2017 in New York City. Comey said that President Donald Trump pressured him to drop the FBI's investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and demanded Comey's loyalty during the one-on-one meetings he had with president. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
The witness table where former FBI Director James Comey will face the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee and testify on June 8 about his meetings with President Trump sits at the ready in Washington, U.S., June 7, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, center delivers opening remarks before the start of a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing with James Comey, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), not pictured, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Comey in prepared remarks to the committee said U.S. President Donald Trump sought his loyalty and urged him to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Former FBI Director James Comey arrives to testify during a US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC, June 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People wait in line hours aheads of time for the start of former FBI Director James Comey's testimony before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 08: Former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara attends the Senate Intelligence Committee where FBI Director James Comey is sent to testify in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill June 8, 2017 in Washington, DC. Comey said that President Donald Trump pressured him to drop the FBI's investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and demanded Comey's loyalty during the one-on-one meetings he had with president. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Former FBI Director James Comey prepares to testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on "Russian Federation Efforts to Interfere in the 2016 U.S. Elections" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
People wait in line hours aheads of time for the start of former FBI Director James Comey's testimony before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Preparations are made before former FBI Director James Comey testifies during a US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC, June 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
James Comey, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), is sworn in to a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Comey in prepared remarks to the committee said U.S. President Donald Trump sought his loyalty and urged him to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The gavel and placard for Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, sit on a table in the hearing room ahead of testimony by former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Comey in prepared remarks to the committee said U.S. President Donald Trump sought his loyalty and urged him to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Former FBI Director James Comey testifies during a US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 8, 2017. Fired FBI director James Comey took the stand Thursday in a crucial Senate hearing, repeating explosive allegations that President Donald Trump badgered him over the highly sensitive investigation Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Capitol police officers stand outside the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing room ahead of testimony by former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Comey in prepared remarks to the committee said U.S. President Donald Trump sought his loyalty and urged him to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Former FBI Director James Comey arrives to testify during a US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC, June 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Senator Mark Warner(C)D-VA and Vice Chairman, Intelligence Committee and Senator Richard Burr(R), Chairman, Intelligence Committee greet former FBI Director James Comey as he arrives to testify during a US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC, June 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Former FBI Director James Comey takes the oath before he testifies during a US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC, June 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Former FBI Director James Comey takes the oath before he testifies during a US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC, June 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Comey said he did not know if there are tapes of his conversations with Trump but said he hoped there were and that they should be made public. "Release all the tapes. I'm good with it," Comey said.

Comey testified that he kept notes after meeting with Trump because "I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document."

The White House has given shifting explanations on why Trump fired Comey. Trump has called Comey a "showboat" and a "grandstander" and said he was thinking of "this Russia thing" in dismissing him.

(Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe in New York, Doina Chiacu, Eric Walsh, Roberta Rampton and Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by)

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