— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) May 11, 2017
If numerous reports regarding the behind-the-scenes turmoil of Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey weren’t bad enough, the president dug himself into a slightly deeper hole during a new interview with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt. The hole in question came about when Holt brought up Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s recommendation to fire Comey, which — along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ own letter — the White House cited as the primary impetus for termination. Seeing as how Rosenstein is apparently unhappy with this turn of events, it was a fair question.
Hence why Trump freely answered it by saying he was going to fire Comey regardless of whatever Rosenstein and Sessions’ recommendations were:
“What I did is, I was going to fire Comey. My decision… 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. He made a recommendation. He’s highly respected. Very good guy. Very smart guy. The Democrats like him. The Republicans like him. He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”
Trump’s insistence that he was going to fire Comey no matter what Rosenstein or Sessions said is telling, especially since his admission confirms the general gist of a Washington Post report detailing what lead to Comey’s firing on Tuesday. The story claimed the president spent the better part of last week stewing over the FBI director, whom he thought was “using the Russia probe to become a martyr.” So after a weekend of golfing, Trump ordered Rosenstein and Sessions “to explain in writing the case against Comey” and promptly fired him the following day.
The president also stuck to his guns when Holt brought up his letter’s insistence that Comey told him “on three separate occasions” he wasn’t under investigation for possible collusion with Russia. Trump, who labeled Comey a “showboat” and a “grandstander” without irony, claimed the former FBI director told him as much during a dinner meeting. “He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on,” he said. “We had a very nice dinner in the White House very early on… and at that time he told me, ‘You are not under investigation.’ Which I knew anyway!”
While he also insisted that the FBI had been in “virtual turmoil” under Comey’s leadership, Trump’s comments here don’t line up with what acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier that same day. “I hold Director Comey in the absolute highest regard,” he said during the hearing, adding: “The vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to [him].” And when Trump’s “three separate occasions” line came up in the conversation, McCabe noted he “[wasn’t] aware of that being a standard practice” but refused to speculate on the matter.
(Via NBC News)