U.S. President Donald Trump claimed Wednesday that he did not fire former FBI chief James Comey last year because he was heading the agency's probe of Russian links to his 2016 election campaign, a contention directly conflicting with what he said days after he had ousted him.
"Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!" Trump said on Twitter.
After Trump dismissed Comey last May 9, two days later he told NBC News anchor Lester Holt that he was going to fire Comey regardless, "knowing there was no good time to do it," but was thinking of the Russia investigation when he decided to dismiss him.
"When I did this, now I said to myself, 'You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,'" Trump said.
Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Moscow's then-ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, at the White House on May 10, less than a day after firing Comey, telling them, "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."
Trump offered his latest comments on Comey's firing as the former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the country's top law enforcement agency, is making the rounds of television news talk shows in recent days to promote his new book, "A Higher Loyalty." It is a first-person account of his life as a lawman and his interactions with Trump before he was dismissed.
Comey has disparaged Trump as "morally unfit" to be president and said it is "not normal" for a U.S. president to call for an American citizen's jailing, as Trump said Comey should be in another tweet this week.
Comey's firing, rather than ending the Russia investigation, led directly to the appointment, over Trump's objections, of special counsel Robert Mueller, another former FBI director, to take over the Russia probe. Mueller's nearly year-long investigation has already secured guilty pleas from Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and foreign affairs adviser George Papadopoulos for lying to investigators.
In recent days, Trump has vented his anger at an FBI raid on the New York office and home of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in search of records related to hefty hush money payoffs shortly before the 2016 election to two women who claim to have had affairs with Trump a decade before his presidential run, purported liaisons he has denied.
Aides have told U.S. news outlets that Trump has considered firing Mueller and the man overseeing him, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, but the two officials are continuing in their jobs as the investigation continues.