(ABC) — Two days after firing FBI Director James Comey, President Donald Trump offered a pointed evaluation of Comey’s character and insisted that the determination was made before an evaluation of him by the Department of Justice.
“Look, he’s a showboat. He’s a grandstander,” said Trump in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt. “The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that. I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago — it was in virtual turmoil. Less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.”
Trump portrayed the decision as his alone, despite the initial administration depiction of the dismissal as one that came based on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
“I was going to fire Comey,” said Trump. “My decision.”
The White House released memorandums from Sessions and Rosenstein to Trump on Comey’s performance in conjunction with Tuesday’s news, and the president said he “accepted their recommendation” in his letter to Comey notifying him of his termination.
“I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” Trump told Holt.
In the termination letter, the president stated that Comey informed Trump “on three separate occasions” that he was not under investigation in relation to the bureau’s probe of Russian interference in the presidential election.
Asked by Holt why he included that information in the letter, Trump responded, “Because he told me that.”
“And I’ve heard that from others,” Trump continued. “We had a very nice dinner, and at that time he told me, ‘You are not under investigation,’ which I knew anyway.”
When asked if he or anyone on behalf of the White House had asked Comey to drop the investigation, Trump said, “No, never.”
Despite tweeting on May 8 that the Russia investigation is a “total hoax” and a “taxpayer charade,” Trump said in the interview, “I want to find out if there was a problem with an election having to do with Russia or, by the way, anybody else, any other country. And I want that to be so strong and so good and I want it to happen.”
He also made a point to deny that the purpose of the investigation — to determine whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russians to influence the election — is null.
“There is no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians,” he said.
Trump added that the other two instances were in two phone calls with Comey and admitted that during one, he asked if his actions were being examined.
“I said, ‘If it’s possible, will you let me know? Am I under investigation?'” Trump said. “He said, ‘You are not under investigation.'”
Trump did not rule out that associates or members of his campaign staff may be under investigation for possible ties to Russia, speaking only for himself on the matter.
“I know that I’m not under investigation — me, personally,” he said. “I’m not talking about campaigns. I’m not talking about anything else. I’m not under investigation.”