WASHINGTON • Former FBI director James Comey has accused US President Donald Trump of trying "to burn down the entire FBI" and charged that congressional Republicans were willing accomplices for failing to challenge him.
"The FBI's reputation has taken a big hit because the President with his acolytes has lied about it constantly," Mr Comey told reporters on Monday, following his second interview this month with House lawmakers running a politically divisive probe into how federal law enforcement officials handled investigations of the Trump campaign's alleged ties with Russia and Mrs Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
However, Mr Comey directed his vitriol not just at the GOP members of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, but at all Republicans, including lawmakers such as senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake who have openly criticised Mr Trump but are not seeking re-election.
"At some point someone has to stand up and face the fear of Fox News, fear of their base, fear of mean tweets, stand up for the values of this country and not slink away into retirement but stand up and speak the truth," Mr Comey said, without naming names.
Mr Comey testified for nearly six hours on Monday, in addition to the six-hour, closed-door discussion he had with panel members earlier this month.
During that session, he defended his decisions as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation - such as superseding then-Attorney-General Loretta Lynch to declare the Clinton probe closed and then informing congressional leaders days before the 2016 election that it had been reopened.
Mr Comey reiterated that defence even more strongly on Monday, flatly refusing to take any personal responsibility for the fact that the FBI's reputation suffered under his stewardship.
He instead blamed Mr Trump for "lying about the FBI, attacking the FBI and attacking the rule of law in this country", as well as the "silence from people in this building" - meaning Capitol Hill - for allowing him to do it.
"Republicans used to understand that the actions of a president matter, the words of a president matter, the rule of law matter and the truth matters," he said. "Where are those Republicans today?"
Republicans on the panel have been in open conflict with Mr Comey about whether he was appropriately forthcoming with his answers, and whether his testimony contradicted former statements he has made.