President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he planned to fire former FBI Director James Comey regardless of the Justice Department’s recommendation on the matter, which the White House previously cited as the primary rationale behind the firing.
“I was going to fire Comey. My decision,” Trump said in an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt. “I was going to fire Comey. There’s no good time to do it, by the way.”
Holt pointed out that in his letter of termination to Comey, Trump said he “accepted” the department’s recommendations regarding Comey’s fate.
“You had already made the decision?” Holt asked.
“Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” Trump said. “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”
He called Comey a “showboat” and a “grandstander,” and claimed the FBI was “in turmoil” before Comey’s firing: “You know that, I know that, everybody knows that.”
Trump said on three separate occasions Comey told him that he was not under investigation by the bureau.
“He told me that,” he said. “I had a dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on.”
“He asked for the dinner?” Holt asked.
“I think he asked for the dinner. And he wanted to stay on as the FBI head. And I said I’ll consider, we’ll see what happens. But we had a very nice dinner,” Trump said. “And at that time he told me, you are not under investigation, which I knew anyway.”
He claimed Comey made that assurance on two more occasions during phone calls.
“But he’s given sworn testimony that there is an ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government. You were the centerpiece of the Trump campaign,” Holt said. “Was he being truthful?”
“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.”