Changing position, President Trump says FBI Director Comey was fired over Russia investigation, showboating

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Despite the White House's initial assertion that Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey was dismissed Tuesday over mishandling the Hillary Clinton email case, United States President Donald Trump on Thursday told NBC that "this Russia thing" was among his reasons, mentioning Comey's repeated claims that he, Trump, was not being investigated. He also accused Comey of "showboating" and said "the FBI has been in turmoil."

James Comey was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia and possible Russian involvement in the 2016 US presidential election that placed Trump in power. The official reason given for his dismissal, overly harsh treatment of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, was met with skepticism from politicians and the press.

Cquote1.svg [W]hen 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've won.' Cquote2.svg

—President Trump to NBC

President Trump also told NBC's Lester Holt that, despite statements to the contrary by Vice President Pence and Sean Spicer, recommendations from deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein did not have anything to do with his decision, which he made before receiving Rosenstein's memo. "Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey. Knowing, there was no good time to do it[...] 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've won.'" He went on to express regret that firing Comey might prolong the investigation and said Comey had told him that he, Trump, was not under investigation when asked.

Trump told NBC that he had asked Comey if he, Trump, were under investigation, to which Comey had replied in the negative. While it is not illegal under U.S. law for President Trump to ask if he is under investigation, former U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson Matthew Miller described it as "completely inappropriate" and pointed out that Comey would not be allowed to answer under Department rules.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders disagreed with Miller's assessment. "I don't see it as a conflict of interest and neither do many of the legal scholars who've been commenting on it over the last hour." She did not elaborate on the reference to legal scholars.

While some sources have said Comey requested more resources for the Russia investigation only days before being fired, one of his associates told news outlets this was not true and the investigation had no shortage of resources.

In his interview with Holt, President Trump affirmed that his campaign had no connections to Russia.

Four candidates for Comey's position were scheduled to be interviewed today: a lawyer named Alice Fisher, an appeals court judge named Michael Garcia, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, and Andrew McCabe, who is currently serving as acting director of the FBI. McCabe has promised to "vigorously and completely" continue the Russia investigation and to tell Congress if any pressure is brought to bear to stop it.


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