President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he did not consider the optics or potential backlash of suddenly firing former FBI Director James Comey, who led the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between members of Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.
“I never thought about it. It was set up a while ago, and frankly I could have waited. But what difference does it make?” Trump said.
The White House on Thursday went into its third day of clean-up duty regarding conflicting official statements on Trump’s rationale for Comey’s abrupt termination.
In an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt, Trump appeared unconcerned with the optics of the decision, and insisted he was not trying to send a message to Comey’s successor regarding the bureau’s probe into Russian election interference.
“Did you ask him to drop the investigation?” Holt asked.
“I want to find out if there was a problem in the election having to do with Russia,” Trump insisted. “I just want somebody that’s competent.”
“But when you put out tweets, ‘it’s a total hoax, it’s a taxpayer charade,’ and you’re looking for a new FBI director, are you not sending that person a message to lay off?” Holt asked.
“No, I’m not doing that,” Trump said.
He called allegations of election interference “an excuse” for Democrats’ election loss, but said he “might even lengthen out the investigation” nevertheless.
“I want that to be so strong and so good,” Trump said. “And I want it to happen.”
He insisted there was no “collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians.”
Pressed by Holt on other conflicts with Comey, Trump said he was “surprised” by Comey’s lack of support for Trump’s claims that he was “wire tapped” at Trump Tower.
“But I wasn’t angry,” he said.
Trump went on to blame White House counsel Don McGahn and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates for the disparity between the amount of time it took Trump to dismiss Comey — a shock announcement which came Tuesday afternoon — and the 18 days it took him to oust former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
“My White House counsel Don McGahn didn’t make it sound like it was an emergency. She actually didn’t make it sound that way either,” Trump said of Flynn’s contacts with a Russian ambassador. “He’s, in my opinion, a very good person.”