In an exclusive interview Thursday with NBC News’ Lester Holt, President Trump called ousted FBI chief James Comey a “showboat” and revealed that he asked Comey whether he was under investigation for alleged ties to Russia.
“I actually asked him” if I were under investigation, Trump said, noting that he spoke with Comey once over dinner and twice by phone.
“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,” Trump told Holt during the 31-minute White House interview.
It is highly unusual for an individual, president or not, who might be the focus of an FBI probe to ask whether he was under investigation and to be directly told by the FBI director that he was not.
“He’s a showboat, he’s grand-stander, the FBI has been in turmoil,” Trump said of Comey in his wide-ranging interview with Holt. “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.”
President Trump said he never tried to pressure Comey into dropping the FBI probe of the Trump campaign and instead insisted, “I want to find out if there was a problem in the election having to do with Russia.”
Asked by Holt if by firing Comey he was trying to portray a “lay off” message to whomever his successor might be, Trump said, “I’m not.”
“If Russia did anything, I want to know that,” Trump said.
But President Trump also insinuated that there was no “collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians.”
“Also, the Russians did not affect the vote,” the president said.
Lester Holt’s interview with the president came as Washington was still fuming over President Trump’s firing of Comey on Tuesday.
Trump insisted he fired former Director Comey because “he was not doing a good job” and the White House on Wednesday cited the FBI chief’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation as one of the reasons they were firing the veteran G-man.
The Democrats, many of whom believe that Comey’s intrusion into the election helped Trump win the presidency, immediately denounced the move and called for the appointment of a special prosecutor as New York Senator Charles Schumer suggested a “cover-up” was underway. However, previous statements by these same Democrats completely contradict their current statements.
“The timing of Director Comey’s dismissal to me and many committee members on both sides of the aisle is especially troubling,” Senator Mark Warner, a Virginian Democrat, said Thursday at the opening of a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.
“He was leading an active counterintelligence investigation into any links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government or its representatives, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere in our election,” he said.
Earlier, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders adamantly stated Trump “had been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected.”
President Trump himself tweeted later Wednesday, “Dems have been complaining for months & months about Dir. Comey. Now that he has been fired they PRETEND to be aggrieved. Phony hypocrites!”
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