In a recent interview, President Donald Trump has insisted he is not under investigation, while dismissing FBI Director James Comey he fired as a “showboat” and “grandstander”.
President Trump told NBC News it was his decision alone to fire James Comey.
James Comey was leading an inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the last year’s election and possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Moscow.
Donald Trump has dismissed the probe as a “charade”, a claim directly contradicted by James Comey’s successor.
In his first interview since firing the FBI director, President Trump told NBC News on May 11 he had asked James Comey whether he was under investigation.
“I said, if it’s possible would you let me know, <<Am I under investigation?>>. He said: <<You are not under investigation>>.”
“I know I’m not under investigation,” President Trump told the interviewer, repeating a claim he made in May 9 letter of dismissal to James Comey.
Donald Trump said James Comey first told him this at a dinner at the White House, which the FBI chief had requested because “he wanted to stay on” in his post under the new administration.
However, NBC later quoted an unnamed former senior FBI official close to James Comey as saying it was the White House that had requested the dinner, and that Comey would not have told the president he was not under investigation.
“He would say, <<Look sir, I really can’t get into it, and you don’t want me to>>,” the former official was quoted as saying.
The White House has rejected concerns raised by legal experts that the conversation, as described by President Trump, may have been improper.
Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she “did not see it as a conflict of interest”.
According to the New York Times, two people who had heard James Comey’s account – apparently of the same dinner – said the former FBI director declined a request to pledge loyalty to President Trump, but said he would be honest with him.
Donald Trump also appeared to undercut the initial White House explanation that he had fired James Comey on the recommendation of top justice officials.
“He’s a showboat. He’s a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. I was going to fire Comey. My decision,” President Trump said.
White House officials had previously pinned the decision on a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which President Trump refers to in the opening paragraph of his termination letter to James Comey, saying: “I have accepted their recommendation.”
However, the president told NBC: “I was going to fire him regardless of the recommendation.”
Donald Trump also denied that he wanted the FBI inquiry on Russia dropped, saying he, instead, wanted it “speeded up”.
“I want to find out if there was a problem with the election having to do with Russia… or any other country, I want that to be so strong and so good, and I want it to happen.”
This is despite what he tweeted on May 8: “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”
“There’s no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians,” the president told NBC.
Donald Trump said he had just sent a letter via a law firm to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham stating that he has no stake in Russia.
“I have nothing to do with Russia,” he said.
“I have no investments in Russia. I don’t have property in Russia. I’m not involved with Russia.”
The White House has depicted the Russia inquiry as “probably one of the smallest things” that the FBI has “got going on their plate”.
However, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said on May 11 that it was “a highly significant investigation”.
In testimony to the Senate intelligence committee, Andrew McCabe also cast doubt on White House claims that James Comey had lost the confidence of his staff.
“I can confidently tell you that the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey,” he said.
Andrew McCabe vowed not to update the White House on the status of the investigation and to notify the Senate panel of any attempt to interfere with the inquiry.
Republican committee chairman Richard Burr asked Andrew McCabe if he had ever heard James Comey tell Donald Trump the president was not the subject of investigation.
Andrew McCabe said he could not comment on an ongoing inquiry.
The acting FBI director did not confirm reports that Director Comey had asked for more resources for the agency’s Russia inquiry.
Andrew McCabe said he believed the FBI had sufficient funding to conduct the probe.