Donald Trump says he fired James Comey because he was 'unpopular'

The President also denied trying to shut down the investigation into Michael Flynn

Emily Shugerman
New York
Thursday 18 May 2017 21:37
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Trump denies that he urged Comey to close Flynn investigation

Donald Trump has said he fired James Comey as FBI Director because he was '"unpopular", during a press conference with the Colombian president.

"Director Comey was very unpopular with most people," Mr Trump claimed, adding that he thought his firing would be a "bipartisan decision".

"Look at all the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, who were saying such terrible things about Director Comey," he said.

The comments are the latest addition to a growing list of White House rationale for Mr Comey's firing.

Initial statements from the White House said Mr Trump had fired Mr Comey on the recommendation of the Justice Department, due to his handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server. Later, the president claimed he had fired Mr Comey after deciding that the FBI investigation into his campaign's possible ties to Russia was baseless.

"When I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, 'You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,'" Mr Trump told NBC's Lester Holt.

Mr Trump on Thursday piled onto his mounting reasons for firing Mr Comey, mentioning his "very poor performance" at a recent Senate hearing, and the FBI's declining reputation.

"All over the world, no matter where you go, the FBI is special," Mr Trump said. "The FBI has not had that special reputation [after] what happened in the campaign; what happened with respect to the Clinton campaign – and even, you could say, directly or indirectly, with respect to the much more successful Trump campaign."

Mr Trump on Thursday also denied ever asking Mr Comey to shut down the FBI's investigation into his former national security adviser, Mike Flynn.

The New York Times had recently reported on a memo, allegedly written by Mr Comey, claiming Mr Trump had asked him to drop the investigation during a private meeting at the White House.

"I hope you can let this go," Mr Trump reportedly told Mr Comey.

When a reporter attempted to ask about the reports on Thursday, Mr Trump quickly denied them, saying, "No. No. Next question."

In fact, Mr Trump denied any wrongdoing in regards to Russia, saying he engaged in "zero" collusion with the foreign superpower.

“Russia is fine, but whether it’s Russia or anybody else, my total priority, believe me, is the United States of America," Mr Trump said.

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