Comey concluded his opening remarks to the committee with a heartfelt statement to his former colleagues at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia asked Comey the key question: "Do you believe this rises to obstruction of justice?" The event should offer the beleaguered president a friendly audience, and his aides said they expect zero mention of Comey in his remarks.
After abruptly firing Comey in May, Trump said that he had Russian Federation on his mind as he did so.
The AP reported right before the hearing that an unnamed source said Trump "disputes" Comey's claim that the president asked him for loyalty.
In a wildly anticipated Senate intelligence committee hearing being viewed worldwide, Comey said in written testimony that Trump demanded his "loyalty" and directly pushed him to "lift the cloud" of investigation by declaring publicly the president was not the target of the probe into his campaign's Russian Federation ties. "I hope you can let this go".
Comey has not spoken publicly since he was abruptly fired by Trump on May 9.
Less than a week before his firing, Comey strenuously defended his actions in the Clinton email case, including his decision to alert Congress just 11 days before the presidential election that the investigation was being revived because of newly discovered emails.
Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenComey: FBI expected Sessions to recuse himself Live coverage: Comey testifies before Senate Intelligence Committee Wyden calls Comey statement "Watergate-level material" MORE (D-Ore.) late Wednesday drew comparisons between President Trump's alleged attempts to interfere in the FBI's probe into Russian election meddling and the Watergate scandal.
Burr went back to Comey's decision previous year to publicly announce that the FBI was concluding its investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server without recommending criminal charges, which was cited by the Trump administration early on as a reason that Comey was sacked.
Comey's statement describes 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 sacked after the White House said he misrepresented the nature of his contact with the Russian ambassador to the United States. "If the election were on October 27, I would be your president", Clinton said last month.
-Did the president ask Comey for his loyalty? Yes.
"The FBI is honest, the FBI is strong and the FBI is and always will be independent", Comey said. A Comey associate has said he obtained Mueller's permission to testify.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Wednesday that he wasn't sure whether Trump had had a chance to read Comey's statement. And in testimony that exposed deep distrust between the president and the veteran lawman, Comey described intense discomfort about their one-on-one conversations, saying he decided he immediately needed to document the discussions in memos.
"The president appeared to threaten him in their last phone call on April 11: "(Trump said), 'I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.' I did not reply or ask him what he meant by 'that thing.' ... And his firing of James Comey to stop the Russian Federation investigation (something he admitted to explicitly during an interview on NBC) is just one tiny piece of that. However, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said that while Trump's dealings with Comey were inappropriate, "We do not indict people for being boorish or clueless". "Trump said: "'He is a good guy and has been through a lot ... The hearing is expected to end sometime before 1pm, when Comey's scheduled to give classified testimony to the same committee behind closed doors. "I was so stunned by the conversation that I just took it in", Comey said.
Comey also said, "I'd seen the tweet about tapes", referring to Trump's tweet suggesting their conversations might have been recorded.
Depending on the length of Comey's testimony and the nature of the information that is revealed to the Senate Intelligence Committee, the networks may decide to move whole episodes over to their usual slots tomorrow.
4. Can senators extract more from Comey in public?
"Something about the way I was conducting it, that the president felt created pressure on him he wanted relieved", Comey told the committee.