Chris Mathews: Trump-Russia Collusion Theory 'Came Apart' During Comey Testimony

And Trump's personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, appeared to question Comey's integrity. On Thursday, Comey provided additional information about the scope of that inquiry and whether it will target the president.

Jim Risch asked Comey about a private hearing in February in which Comey told the committee that the report "upset" Comey so much he "surveyed the intelligence community to see whether [he was] missing something in that", and that Comey sought out Republican and Democratic senators to push back against the report. "Why didn't you even bring it up with the president or anybody in [the Department of] Justice?" Comey dropped several hints to that effect. He asked what we could do to 'lift the cloud.' I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn't find anything, to having done the work well. Comey said that was up to special counsel Robert Mueller to decide. "You understand that", Trump said. Comey wanted to get his account out, perhaps encouraging the appointment of a special prosecutor. "Those were lies, plain and simple", Comey said.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump disputed two key points in the written testimony provided by Mr Comey, a source familiar with Mr Trump's thinking said. And that's how details of their encounters first made it into the public domain, upping the pressure for an independent probe. Nor did they refute the underlying allegation that Trump fired Comey because he declined to drop portions of the FBI investigation.

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. He seemed to be suggesting that Comey or his onetime allies at the Federal Bureau of Investigation were behind the leaks damaging to Trump, asking him to name every member of his senior leadership with whom he had discussed his interactions with Trump.

Their relationship was rocky from the start.

"This investigation is full of leaks left and right", Rubio said.

"(There) was the nature of the person. After meeting with the president-elect, at Trump Tower in New York, Comey said he "was honestly concerned he might lie about the content of our meeting, so I felt I had to write it down".

"After publicly calling for former FBI Director Comey to testify, I appreciate his honest remarks today", Rep. Fred Upton, R-St.

He strongly hinted at the possibility of criminal intent.

"Today, Mr. Comey admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the president", Kasowitz stated. "I can definitely say the president is not a liar and frankly am insulted by that question", White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a briefing at the White House. I really can't stand it when Kevin's cynical misanthropy outshines my own, but I thought the hearings were considerably better than the typical fare.

"I mean, this is a president of the United States, with me alone, saying "I hope" this". Cutting Flynn out of the picture could potentially have a significant effect on how the investigation proceeds. "That happened. It's about as unfake as you can possibly get". But it suggests the peril of aligning yourself too closely with a very unpopular president.

Some opposition Democrats said Trump's request about Flynn amounts to obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense similar to that leading to the 1974 resignation of former President Richard Nixon.

Republican James Lankford said it didn't sound like the president was very aggressive.

Legal opinions have been mixed on the issue.

As for President Trump, Comey said in his opening statement that he was personally shocked when he learned the president had fired him, saying, "the shifting explanations confused me and increasingly concerned me". It is more important, from their perspective at least, to keep the story alive and to tarnish the president.