Trump claims he did not fire Comey over Russia

President TrumpDonald John TrumpAdvisor: Sanders could beat Trump in Texas Bloomberg rips Sanders over Castro comments What coronavirus teaches us for preventing the next big bio threat MORE claimed Thursday he did not fire former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyBill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn Comey responds to Trump with Mariah Carey gif: 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' Trump punts on Stone pardon decision after sentencing MORE over the Russia investigation, despite his prior statements that the issue contributed to Comey’s firing.

"Not that it matters but I never fired James Comey because of Russia! The Corrupt Mainstream Media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true!" he tweeted.

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Trump appeared to be referring to a New York Times report that Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinAttorney General Barr is in a mess — and has no one to blame but himself Graham requests interviews with DOJ, FBI officials as part of probe into Russia investigation DOJ won't charge former FBI Deputy Director McCabe MORE said the president initially asked him to reference Russia in his memo justifying Comey’s firing, which centered on the FBI chief’s handling of the probe into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden faces do-or-die primary in South Carolina President Trump's assault on checks and balances: Five acts in four weeks Schiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again' MORE's use of a private email server.

The conversation was detailed in a separate memo authored by former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeTrump allies assembled lists of officials considered disloyal to president: report Bill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn Comey responds to Trump with Mariah Carey gif: 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' MORE, which was given to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE.

Comey’s firing is a focal point of Mueller’s probe into whether Trump obstructed the investigation into ties between his campaign and Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump and his allies have offered a series of changing explanations for his decision to fire Comey, which has complicated investigators’ effort to determine his intent.

Soon after the White House released Rosenstein’s memo, which criticized Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation, Trump undercut it by telling NBC News that he was going to ax the FBI director “regardless of recommendation.”

“And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said 'You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,’” the president said during a May 2017 interview with the network.

Trump later told a pair of top Russian diplomats that firing Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him over Russia, according to the Times.

The president has grown increasingly frustrated by the Mueller investigation as it moves closer to his inner circle.

Over the past 24 hours, Trump has repeatedly lashed out at Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPresident Trump's assault on checks and balances: Five acts in four weeks On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Trump looms as flashpoint in Alabama Senate battle MORE over his decision to recuse himself from the probe.

And the president has also continued to push his unsubstantiated claim that the Obama administration placed spies in his campaign in order to help Clinton in 2016.

“The corrupt Mainstream Media is working overtime not to mention the infiltration of people, Spies (Informants), into my campaign! Surveillance much?” he tweeted 10 minutes before his message about Comey.

Trump’s claims were rebutted this week by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdySunday shows preview: 2020 Democrats jockey for top spot ahead of Nevada caucuses Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Green says House shouldn't hold impeachment articles indefinitely MORE (R-S.C.), who met with senior Justice Department and intelligence officials following reports the FBI used a confidential informant in the Russia probe.

“I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump,” Gowdy said Tuesday on Fox News.

The Russia probe has appeared to dominate Trump's attention, distracting from high-stakes negotiations with North Korea and on trade. The president vowed this week he would dedicate more of his time to those key policy issues instead of the investigation.

"Sorry, I’ve got to start focusing my energy on North Korea Nuclear, bad Trade Deals, VA Choice, the Economy, rebuilding the Military, and so much more, and not on the Rigged Russia Witch Hunt that should be investigating Clinton/Russia/FBI/Justice/Obama/Comey/Lynch etc.," he tweeted Tuesday.

--Updated at 8:49 a.m.