President Donald Trump has said former FBI Director James Comey assured him three times – once at dinner, and twice on the phone – that he was not being investigated by the bureau.
In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Mr Trump said he and Mr Comey “had a very nice dinner, and at that time he told me, ‘You are not under investigation,’ which I knew anyway”.
“Then during a phone call he said it, and then during another phone call he said it,” Mr Trump elaborated. “In one case I called him, and in once case he called me."
Mr Trump said that he thought Mr Comey asked for the dinner and wanted to stay on as FBI director. “I said we’ll consider it. ‘We’ll see what happens,’” Mr Trump said.
During a White House briefing, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she did not view it as a conflict of interest that Mr Comey told the president he was not under an investigation at a meeting where the FBI Director was also asking to remain head of the bureau.
Mr Trump’s comments provide more insight into a letter he sent to Mr Comey on Wednesday saying that “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”
Mr Comey was heading an FBI investigation into possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian operatives seeking to meddle with the US’s 2016 presidential election.
When the White House first announced that Mr Trump was dismissing Mr Comey, it said the president was acting based on the recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. But on Thursday, Mr Trump told NBC that “regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.’’
Ms Sanders said the president had been thinking about firing Mr Comey for months, “and I think Wednesday was the final straw that pushed him, and the recommendation that he had gotten from the Deputy Attorney General” solidified and reaffirmed his choice.
In a memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Mr Rosenstein said he could not defend Mr Comey’s “refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken” in the way he handled an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State.Reuse content