(CNSNews.com) - In opening remarks to the Senate intelligence committee, former FBI Director James Comey said the Trump administration lied about him and the FBI:
Although the president does not need a reason to fire the FBI director, Comey said he was "confused" by the conflicting explanations coming from the Trump administration.
After giving various reasons for Comey's firing, "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.
"Those were lies, plain and simple, and I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I am so sorry that the American people were told them."
The day after Comey was fired, Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters, "The president has lost confidence in Director Comey and, frankly, he'd been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected."
But Comey on Thursday said his firing took him by surprise, because the president "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 and workforce."
Comey said it "confused" him when he saw the president say on television that he actually fired Comey because of the Russia investigation, then learned from the media that the president was privately telling "other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure" imposed by that investigation.
Comey also was confused by the administration's initial explanation "that I was fired because of the decisions I had made during the election year. That didn't make sense to me or a whole bunch of reasons," including the time that had elapsed since then, he said.
Comey said he "worked every day" to make the FBI better; he praised the FBI's workforce as its greatest strength; he said the FBI will be fine without him, although he will miss being part of its mission.
"The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is and always will be independent," Comey said.
Comey said he was "so sorry" that he didn't get a chance to say goodbye to his colleagues properly. "It was the honor 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."