WASHINGTON: Fired FBI director James Comey has created a political storm over his allegations against President Donald Trump who reportedly asked him to drop a probe against his former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and sought "loyalty" from him.
The statement which was meant as an opening statement of Comey during his Congressional hearing tomorrow was released a day ahead by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
The seven-page written testimony that gives details the interaction that Comey had with Trump.
Political pundits in the US said this could be the most watched Congressional testimony in recent decades.
It could even be the most tweeted Congressional hearing as several US news channels are planning to carry the hearing live from the US Capitol.
Comey's statement describes "behaviour" by Trump that was at best "inappropriate", and at worst "illegal" said Democratic Senator Ed Markey.
"Trump, on numerous occasions, sought fealty from the FBI Director, attempted to interfere with an historic federal investigation, and then fired Comey after both requests were spurned," he said.
"By repeatedly and improperly asking Comey to 'lift the cloud' that was darkening his administration, asking him to 'let it go' in reference to the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and then summarily firing the FBI Director, Donald Trump appears to have obstructed justice. Comey’s testimony details a pattern of disturbing behaviour and a disdain for the rule of law by Trump," Markey said.
House Minority Whip Steny H Hoyer demanded that the Congress should launch an independent, bipartisan commission to get to the bottom of Russia's attempts to undermine our democracy and to what extent they had contact with the Trump campaign as they did so.
Congresswoman Jacky Rosen said the prepared remarks offered by the former FBI Director are deeply worrying.
"I am especially concerned by the President’s attempts to interfere in the FBI's work by asking about dropping investigations into Michael Flynn and ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. It disturbs me to know that the President would ask our chief law enforcement officer for his loyalty in exchange for job security, and then fire him in the middle of an ongoing investigation," he said.
Congressman Jim Himes said Comey's statement for paints a detailed and disturbing picture of a President obsessed with loyalty, secrecy, and exerting inappropriate pressure to achieve his goals.
"At the very least, President Trump's actions should instill a sense of profound worry in the American people about a leader with no sense of propriety or an understanding of the need for independence of law enforcement within the executive branch, an independence that has been respected by Presidents for generations," he said.
According to The Hill, while the testimony mostly confirms what has been reported since Comey’s firing in May, it nonetheless paints an extraordinary picture of the president's interactions with one of the nation's top law enforcement officials.
The Washington Post said to date, Democrats are split on the question of impeachment proceedings, with some readily suggesting the possibility but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi impatiently dismissing that as premature.
"Legal analysts said the testimony adds detail that would beef up an obstruction of justice case," the daily reported.
"Comey has to answer some hard questions about why didn’t he do more" to raise concerns about Trump’s comments, said Senator Lindsey O Graham.
"If you really believe that the man was trying to obstruct justice and you’re the head of the FBI, more than writing a note to yourself, you probably ought to do something about it," he said.
The New York Times said the White House is on defensive after Comey’s testimony was released.
"The impression painted by Comey is one of the president seeking to exert control over him and his agency, and a vexed FBI director pushing back—a narrative the White House rejects," wrote The Wall Street Journal.