President Donald Trump changed the White House narrative surrounding the firing of FBI Director James Comey on Thursday, saying he would have fired Comey “regardless” of whether the Justice Department recommended it.
“He’s a showboat, he’s a grand-stander, the FBI has been in turmoil,” Trump told NBC News’ Lester Holt in an interview in the White House. “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’s account of his unexpected decision diverges from his previous statements, as well as those of Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials, who claimed that Trump decided to fire Comey only after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sent Trump a memo recommending the director’s ousting. Trump himself wrote in a letter to Comey announcing his dismissal that he was acting on the recommendation of the Justice Department.
“Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey,” Trump said.
On Wednesday, Pence told reporters that Trump “made the right decision at the right time to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to ask for the termination — to support the termination of the director of the FBI.”
New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush, among others, disputed Pence’s statement on Wednesday, claiming that several sources that he and other Times reporters had spoken with claimed Trump initiated the review.
During a press briefing on Thursday afternoon, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the divergent messages from the White House resulted from a lack of information from the president himself.
“I think it’s pretty simple. I hadn’t had a chance to have the conversation directly with the president,” Sanders said. “I’d had several conversations with him, but I didn’t ask that question directly.”
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