WASHINGTON — Donald Trump claimed Thursday he always intended to fire FBI director James Comey, undercutting the initial White House explanation that he acted on the recommendation of top justice officials.
“I was going to fire him regardless of recommendations,” Trump told NBC in an interview, after days in which the White House has struggled to convince Congress and the American public that the move was not politically motivated.
“He’s a showboat, he’s a grandstander,” Trump said of Comey. “The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that. Everybody knows that.”
Vice President Mike Pence and a string of White House officials have said that Trump made the decision after being advised to do so by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein.
“President Trump made the right decision at the right time to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general, to ask for the termination, to support the termination of the director of the FBI,” Pence said on Wednesday.
Trump also said he had personally asked Comey whether he was under FBI investigation.
That admission could expose the president to allegations of interfering with ongoing investigations in possible collusion between his aides and the Russian government during the 2016 election.
“I actually asked him, yes. I said, ‘If it’s possible would you let me know am I under investigation?’” Trump said, recounting one of three conversations about the issue — two over the phone and one over dinner.
“He said, ‘you are not under investigation.’” Trump claimed.