Vice President Mike Pence briefly addressed reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday, where he insisted that FBI’s Russia investigation did not play a role in President Donald Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as the director of the bureau.
“As you know very clearly — as has been stated repeatedly and the President has been told — he’s not under investigation, and as former Director Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said, there is no evidence of collusion between our campaign and any Russian officials,” Pence told reporters when first asked by NBC’s Kristen Welker if Trump fired Comey in an attempt to interfere with the FBI probe.
“That’s not what this is about,” Pence continued. “The President took strong and decisive leadership here to put the safety and the security of the American people first by accepting the recommendation of the deputy attorney general to remove Director Comey as the head of the FBI.”
Asked if there should be an independent probe of potential links between Trump associates and Russia, Pence claimed that there is “no evidence of collusion” and repeated the President’s claim that Comey told Trump he was not under investigation.
“The evidence or the facts that are in public today are very clear. The former director of national intelligence has said there is no evidence of collusion,” Pence told reporters. “The President and I remain confident that the committees in the House and the Senate that are looking into every aspect of issues that arise out of last year’s election will be able to do their work and do it in an orderly way.”
Trump administration officials often cite comments made by James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, that he had not seen any evidence of links between the Trump campaign and Russia. However, Clapper noted in a Senate hearing on Monday that he was never even aware of the FBI’s investigation into the matter until after Comey made the probe’s existence public.
Speaking to reporters, Pence emphasized that Trump moved to fire Comey after seeing a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
“Let me be very clear that the President’s decision to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to remove Director Comey as the head of the FBI was based solely and exclusively on his commitment to the best interest of the American people and to ensuring that the FBI has the trust and confidence of the people of this nation,” Pence said when asked a second time if the Russia probe was a factor in Trump’s decision.
Asked if Trump had directed Rosenstein to conduct the review of Comey, Pence did not deny that Trump gave the Justice Department any direction. Instead he repeated that Trump acted on Rosenstein’s recommendation.
“The new deputy attorney general, who was just sworn in two weeks ago and confirmed by the FBI, came to work — he is a man of extraordinary independence and integrity and a reputation in both political parties of great character — came to work, sat down and made the recommendation for the FBI to be able to do its job that it would need new leadership,” Pence said.
“He brought that recommendation to the President, the attorney general concurred with that recommendation, and I personally am grateful that we have a President who is willing to provide the kind of decisive and strong leadership to take the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to remove an FBI director who had lost the confidence of the American people,” Pence said.