President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE on Thursday cited investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election in explaining his decision to fire FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyGiuliani told investigators it was OK to 'throw a fake' during campaign DOJ watchdog unable to determine if FBI fed Giuliani information ahead of 2016 election Biden sister has book deal, set to publish in April MORE.
“Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey,” Trump said during an interview on "NBC Nightly News," insisting "there was no good time to do it."
“And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story,’” Trump continued.
“It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won ... This was an excuse for having lost an election.”
Democrats have accused Trump of firing Comey in an effort to tamp down on the bureau's probe into Russia, which Comey announced in March included looking at any coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Lawmakers from both parties have questioned the timing of Trump's decision to fire Comey this week, with a pair of congressional intelligence committees vowing they would continue with their own probes.
Trump maintained Thursday that Comey's dismissal would not impede the FBI’s investigation, which he said "should be over with."
“As far as I’m concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly,” he said.
“But I said to myself, I might even lengthen out the investigation,” Trump continued. “But I have to do the right thing for the American people.”
The White House said Tuesday that Trump had fired Comey on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Session and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein. Vice President Pence and senior White House aides repeatedly said Trump acted on the Justice Department’s advice.
But Trump said Thursday that he had made up his mind about sacking Comey without the Justice Department's input.
“I was going to fire regardless of the recommendation,” he told NBC’s Lester Holt.
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe vowed to lawmakers on Thursday that he would not update the White House on the investigation.
Updated: 8 p.m.