Trump: I was going to fire Comey regardless of DOJ recommendation
President Trump says he planned to fire FBI Director James Comey regardless of the Justice Department’s recommendation, contradicting the White House’s earlier account of Comey’s ouster.
“I was going to fire regardless of the recommendation,” Trump said in an interview with NBC News aired Thursday. “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”
The White House previously said Trump only decided to oust Comey after meeting Monday with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who discussed reasons for removing the director.
The next day, Rosenstein submitted a written memo criticizing the FBI director’s handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
“The president has accepted the recommendation of the Attorney General and the deputy Attorney General regarding the dismissal of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday night in the briefing room
Vice President Pence told reporters multiple times Wednesday Trump fired Comey because he had accepted “the recommendation of the deputy attorney general.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday denied that Trump had already decided to fire Comey before meeting Rosenstein on Monday.
Since then, the White House has changed its story, and Trump on Thursday made it clear it was always his call alone to fire Comey, who was leading the FBI’s probe of Russia’s meddling in the election — and possible ties to Trump’s campaign.
The comments sent aides scrambling to reconcile the conflicting storylines.
Sanders on Thursday repeatedly denied that she and other White House officials had been left in the dark about the circumstances surrounding Comey’s firing.
“I think it’s pretty simple, I hadn’t had a chance to have the conversation directly with the president,” Sanders said when asked to explain the discrepancies in the White House’s account. “I went off the information I had.”
Sanders then accused Democrats of hypocrisy for protesting the firing of Comey, whom they criticized for his handling of the Clinton email probe.
“If you want to talk about people in the dark, our story is consistent,” Sanders said. “The people that are in the dark today are the Democrats.”
Trump offered harsh criticism of the former FBI chief, calling him a “showboat” and a “grandstander” who had jeopardized the integrity of the top law enforcement agency.
“The FBI has been in turmoil,” Trump said. “You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.”
Trump’s comments came after acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe directly contradicted the White House’s claims that the “rank and file” agents had lost faith in Comey.
“Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” McCabe said Thursday during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The president also repeated his claim that Comey told him on three separate occasions he is not personally under investigation as part of the FBI’s probe into his team’s alleged ties to Russia. Multiple news reports have said that comment was inaccurate.
“I know that I am not under investigation, me personally,” Trump said. “I am not talking about campaigns, I’m not talking about anything else. I am not under investigation.”
Comey associations have told The Wall Street Journal that Comey did not tell Trump he was not under investigation.
One told the Journal that “this is literally farcical.”
– Updated at 2:58 p.m.
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