WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump on Thursday said he had made the decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested the move at a meeting Monday.
“Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey,” Trump said in an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt.
Trump’s comment about his decision to fire Comey runs counter to the timeline that the White House put out Wednesday, which claimed that Trump had been thinking about firing Comey for months but that he made the decision based on Rosenstein’s suggestion earlier this week.
Rosenstein wrote a memo detailing the reasons to fire Comey, which primarily focused on the former FBI director’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state.
Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday she hadn’t had the opportunity to ask Trump when he made the decision to fire Comey and defended the timeline the White House ran with on Wednesday.
“I had several conversations with him, but I didn’t ask that question directly,” Sanders said at a White House press briefing.
Trump also called Comey a “showboat” and a “grandstander” in the interview and revealed that he had asked Comey if he was under FBI investigation, once over dinner. In the letter dismissing Comey, Trump thanked Comey for informing him “on three separate occasions” that he was not under investigation.
Trump’s firing of Comey continues to dominate Washington and came on the same day acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee at a previously scheduled hearing on worldwide threats. Filling in for Comey at the hearing, McCabe contradicted the White House’s claim that his former boss had lost support of his employees at the FBI.
Sens. Richard Burr and Mark Warner, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, also met with Rosenstein on Wednesday to discuss their investigations into Russian influence on the election. That meeting, like the hearing, was scheduled before Comey’s firing, and was meant to ensure the parallel investigations did not cause problems for each other.
Burr said Comey did not come up at the meeting, though both senators praised him to reporters afterwards.
Burr and Warner have invited Comey to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week but have yet to get a response.
Warner said Rosenstein took “under advisement” his suggestion that a special counsel should oversee the Russia investigation going forward. A group of 20 state attorneys general sent a letter to Rosenstein on Thursday urging he do the same.
“Only the appointment of an independent special counsel… with full powers and resources, can begin to restore public confidence,” the attorneys general wrote in the letter.
The events of the day came after deluge of detailed reports on Trump’s decision to fire Comey. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Comey had asked for more money for the Russia investigation shortly before Trump fired him, while the Washington Post reported that Trump was frustrated that Comey was prioritizing the investigation into Russia over looking into the agency’s leaks or his unsubstantiated claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped him during the campaign.
In a letter sent to FBI employees after his firing, Comey acknowledged that the president “can fire an FBI director for any reason, or for no reason at all.”
“I’m not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed,” Comey wrote in the letter, obtained by CNN. “I hope you won’t either. It is done, and I will be fine, although I will miss you and the mission deeply.”