Associates of fired FBI Director James Comey rejected President Trump's assertion that the former head of the nation's top law enforcement agency thrice assured the president that he is not under federal investigation.
In a Thursday Wall Street Journal report, Comey's associates said the former FBI director would never divulge such information, because it would violate the bureau's policies on criminal investigations.
“That is literally farcical,” one associate told the WSJ.
The report directly contradicts Trump's claim that Comey directly told him he was not the subject of an FBI investigation. The president first made that the assertion in the Tuesday letter to Comey notifying him of his termination.
"While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau," Trump wrote.
He made the claim again in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt aired Thursday, explaining that Comey told him once over dinner and twice in phone calls that he was not being investigated.
"During a phone call, he said it. And then during another phone call he said it," Trump said in the interview excerpt released Thursday afternoon. "So he said it once at dinner and then he said it twice during phone calls."
The contradiction is the latest in a series of inconsistencies to arise in the White House's account of Comey's ouster.
Shortly after news broke of Comey's termination, documents released by the White House — including the letter from Trump — said the president had decided to fire the FBI director at the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein.
But news reports that surfaced Wednesday put forth a different account: Trump had decided on his own fire Comey, and had asked Rosenstein to make the case against him in writing.
Trump confirmed in his interview with Holt that he had, in fact, already made the decision to fire Comey, saying that he would have done so regardless of Sessions's or Rosenstein's recommendations.
"I was going to fire regardless of the recommendation," he said. "Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey."