TRUMP CALLS COMEY "SHOWBOAT AND GRANDSTANDER" AND PLANNED TO FIRE HIM 'REGARDLESS'
In his interview with Lester Holt Trump Called fired FBI Director James B. Comey a “showboat and grandstander,” President Trump said Thursday that he had planned to fire Mr. Comey regardless of whether Justice Department officials advised it.
“The FBI has been in turmoil,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with NBC News. “Look, he’s a showboat, he’s a grandstander. Regardless of [a] recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”
In Trump's first extended interview since firing Comey, the president also said the former FBI chief told him on three occasions that he wasn't being 'investigated' since his inauguration over his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.
President Trump said one of the conversations came during dinner as Mr. Comey was making a pitch to remain in his job.
“He wanted to stay at the FBI, and I said I’ll, you know, consider and see what happens,” the president told anchor Lester Holt. “But we had a very nice dinner, and at that time he told me, ‘You are not under investigation.’ Which I knew anyway.
”Trump said Comey again assured him in two phone calls.In one of those calls, the president said he brought up the issue.“I actually asked him, yes,” Mr.
Trump recalled. “I said, ‘If it’s possible, would you let me know am I under investigation?’ He said, ‘You are not under investigation.’”
The president’s comments seemed to contradicts his former campaign officials, such as Carter Page, Michael Flynn, White House communication staff and the vice president Mike Pence.
“All I can tell you is, well I know what, I know that I’m not under investigation. Me. Personally,” Mr. Trump said. “I’m not talking about campaigns. I’m not talking about anything else.”
The interview made some people to accuse the president of trying to obstruct justice in the FBI probe.
Former FBI Director James Comey
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Mr. Trump’s new explanation contradicts the version laid out by Vice President Mike Pence and White House spokespersons earlier this week that the president had simply accepted the advice of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J.Rosenstein to fire Mr. Comey.
“Which one was it? Did the vice president mislead the public or did the president?” the New York Democrat said. “The American people deserves answers.”
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration’s critics were “arguing about the semantics” of the move.
“I’m not sure how he (Mr. Trump) didn’t accept the deputy attorney general’s recommendation when they agreed with one another,” she said.
Democrats wants Mr. Rosenstein to come to the Capitol to brief senators on the progress of the Russia investigation, and late Thursday, Mr. Schumer said he and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have agreed to issue that invitation.
Democrats have accused president Trump of firing the FBI director in order to undermine the Russia investigation. Trump denied the accusation in the interview with Mr. Holt, who asked if the president was trying to send a message to Mr. Comey’s successor to “lay off” the probe.
“I’m not,” the president said. “If Russia did anything, I want to know that.”
Trump also declared that there was no “collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians.”
“Also, the Russians did not affect the vote,” Mr. Trump said.
The White House communication staff said firing Mr. Comey actually could speed up the FBI’s probe into Russian meddling, and enable the country to move on to Mr. Trump’s agenda.
“We want this to come to its conclusion. We want it to come to its conclusion with integrity,” Ms. Sanders said. “And we think that we’ve actually, by removing Director Comey, taken steps to make that happen.”
She said Mr. Trump would “love nothing more than for this investigation to continue to its completion.”
The president sacked Mr. Comey Tuesday, saying he no longer had confidence in him. The firing was recommended in writing by Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Sessions; and earlier this week White House officials had made people believed that Trump based his decision on his advisers’ recommendation.
But the president’s comments Thursday made clear he had been wanting to fire Mr. Comey for much longer, originating from the FBI director’s handling of a probe in 2016 of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s private email server from her tenure as secretary of State.
The former FBI director first announced in July that Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified emails on an unsecured server had been “reckless” but didn’t warrant criminal charges. Then Mr. Comey announced in late October, in the heat of the campaign, that he was reopening the investigation to review more classified emails, which also resulted in no charges.
“You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago,” the president said. “It hasn’t recovered from that.”
The White House also rejected a report that Mr. Rosenstein was so disturbed by the West Wing’s placing responsibility on him for the firing that he threatened to quit after only two weeks on the job.
“I don’t think there was ever an attempt to pin the decision on the deputy attorney general,” Mrs. Sanders said. “We know that the president’s been thinking about this for a long time. The president is the only person who can fire the director of the FBI.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said the report that Mr. Rosenstein threatened to quit was false.
In his May 9 memo, Mr. Rosenstein said Mr. Comey “made serious mistakes” in his public handling of the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s secret emails, and was unable to regain the trust of the public.
The firing also followed Mr. Comey’s congressional testimony on May 3, when he confirmed the ongoing probe into Russian tampering in the election and the possibility of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. He told lawmakers he was “mildly nauseous” over accusations that his actions last fall in the Clinton probe might have swayed the presidential election.
White House aides said Mr. Trump was furious over Mr. Comey’s testimony.
“After watching Director Comey’s testimony [on May 3], the president was strongly inclined to remove him,” Mrs. Sanders said.
Reacting to the president’s comment Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, shook his head after learning of Trump's characterization of Mr. Comey as a “showboat” and “grandstander.”
“I’m offended at the president’s comments,” said Mr. Warner, Virginia Democrat. “This is a continuing pattern of disrespecting the men and women who serve in our intelligence community.”
Sen. Richard M. Burr, the chairman of the committee, who was standing next to him said he believed Mr. Comey displayed a high degree of professionalism in his role.
“I found him to be one of the most ethical, upright, straightforward individuals I’ve had the opportunity to work with,” the North Carolina Republican said. “He provided our committee more access to information than any director of the FBI.”
My opinion: Trump is an arrogant dictator, a "showboat and grandstander" himself, it's like pot calling kettle names.
The FBI Director and the Attorney General positions should be chosen by the people through election, so they are fully independent. If they abuse their power then they can be fired by vote in the Congress and Senate.