WASHINGTON (ABC) -- Former FBI Director James Comey laced into President Trump and the White House during his much-anticipated congressional testimony today, accusing the administration of working to "defame" him and the FBI, and telling "lies" to the American people.
“Although the law requires 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,” Comey said in his opening remarks to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in a hearing room on Capitol Hill.
"Those were lies plain and simple. And I am so sorry that the FBI work force had to hear them and I am so sorry that the American people were told them.”
The White House denied that the president is a “liar.”
Comey, among other things, also said during the course of his testimony:
•The Trump administration tried to smear his reputation;
•The president had said Comey was "doing a great job" before his firing;
•He leaked his notes hoping for a special counsel;
•He believes he was “fired because of the Russia investigation”;
•And Trump never explicitly told him to drop the Michael Flynn investigation.
Comey also described a series of uncomfortable interactions with Trump, in which he says the president requested his loyalty and pressed him to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired after the White House said he had misrepresented the nature of his contact with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Comey also said he told the president that he was not the subject of an FBI investigation.
Some of the allegations have been directly contradicted by the White House in the past. On May 12, press secretary Sean Spicer rejected the notion that Trump ever asked Comey to pledge loyalty, and on May 18 Trump himself said he never urged Comey to back off the investigation into Flynn.
“The president disputes that he ever asked for Jim Comey’s loyalty and he disputes that he ever asked Comey to let the Flynn investigation go in any way,” a source familiar with the president’s thinking told ABC News today.
Longtime Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz delivered an on-camera statement this afternoon, disputing Comey’s allegation that the president requested his loyalty and blasting him for leaking information to the media.
“Today, Mr. Comey admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the president,” Kasowitz told reporters. “We will leave it the appropriate authorities to determine whether this leaks should be investigated along with all those others being investigated.”
He added that the president "feels completely vindicated."
Trump watched Comey’s hearing and testimony with his legal team and senior advisers from the president’s personal dining room near the Oval Office in the White House, ABC News has learned.
After the hearing, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders firmly rebuked the former FBI director's accusation that the president had lied.
“I can definitively say the president isn’t a liar,” Sander told reporters, adding that she thought it was insulting that such a question be asked.