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James Comey on Trump’s excuse for firing him: “those were lies, plain and simple”

A fiery opening to Congress from the former FBI director.

Former FBI Director James Comey wasted no time in addressing President Donald Trump in his opening congressional testimony on Thursday — asserting that the president lied and defamed both him and the FBI.

Update: Watch Comey’s testimony live

Comey said he was baffled and concerned by Trump’s assertion on television that he had fired the former FBI director because of the Russia investigation, as well as the initial excuse from the administration that Trump had fired Comey due to his botched handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“That didn’t make any sense to me,” Comey said. “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 am so sorry that the American people were told them.”

Comey is widely respected for his efforts to remain above the political fray. For a man in that position, these are simply incredible allegations.

Comey went on to try to assure the American public that the FBI is a good organization that will remain independent, under Trump and after.

The FBI’s “mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States,” Comey said. “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.”

He added, “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 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. Thank you for standing watch, thank you for doing so much good for this country. Do that good as long as ever you can.”