President Donald Trump spoke out publicly Thursday about FBI Director James Comey's firing and blasted the former director as a "showboat" and a "grandstander. The president also said he was determined to let Comey go regardless of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's recommendation to do so.
NBC News "Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt sat down with Trump for a White House interview and asked the president about what led him to fire the FBI director, a rare move that resulted in a political earthquake for the Trump administration.
Comey's firing came as the FBI is investigating Trump's presidential campaign for alleged ties to Russia, as well as Moscow's supposed meddling in the 2016 election. Trump called allegations that his campaign colluded with Russia a "total hoax," but Democrats and some Republicans said more answers are needed.
"Removal of Director Comey only confirms need for select [committee] to investigate #Russia's interference in 2016 election" Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) tweeted Tuesday.
Removal of Director Comey only confirms need for select cmte to investigate #Russia's interference in 2016 election https://t.co/LfKlwSw6iQ— John McCain (@John McCain) 1494371641.0
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) said he and his staff are reviewing new legislation to create an "independent commission" on Russia.
My staff and I are reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia. The second paragraph of… https://t.co/qcm1PiFkNG— Justin Amash (@Justin Amash) 1494373055.0
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told ABC News that he was "troubled by the timing and reasoning" of Comey's firing and that the director's "dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation."
Despite bipartisan criticism, however, Trump defended his decision to fire Comey during an NBC News interview.
"He's a showboat. He's a grandstander," Trump said of Comey.
The president said that the FBI "has been in turmoil" for about a year and just never recovered. He then revealed that he planned to fire Comey, regardless.
Rosenstein, who assumed office a couple weeks ago, recommended in a letter earlier this week that the president let Comey go.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that the FBI's rank and file had "lost confidence in their director," a claim that acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe disputed Thursday during congressional testimony.
"I was going to fire Comey, my decision," Trump told NBC News. "I was going to fire Comey. There's no good time to do it, by the way."
"I was going to fire regardless of recommendation," Trump continued.
The administration insisted Comey's firing had nothing to do with the bureau's investigation into the Trump campaign.
Trump took steps during the interview Thursday to squash any notion that he is under investigation. Trump said that on three different occasions — once in person and twice on the phone — Comey made it clear that the president was not under investigation, personally.
In at least one of those instances, Trump said he "actually asked" Comey to reveal whether the FBI was investigating him, to which Comey replied, "You are not under investigation."
"I know that I'm not under investigation — me, personally. I'm not talking about campaigns. I'm not talking about anything else," Trump said. "I'm not under investigation."
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) May 11, 2017