Trump defends decision to fire Comey, denies Russian collusion

President Trump on Russian Collusion and James Comey with Lester Holt

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President Donald Trump denied collusion with Russia in an interview on Thursday with NBC’s Lester Holt, while defending his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.

“He is a showboat. He’s a grandstander,” Trump said of Comey. “The other thing is, the Russians did not affect the vote, and everybody seems to think that.”

The New York Times on Thursday reported that Trump demanded loyalty of Comey in a January dinner, and that the former FBI director only promised “honesty.”

During the interview Trump said he had been previously told by Comey that he was not under investigation, a total of three times, Trump said. But Comey publicly confirmed in March that the FBI was in fact conducting its investigation into potential coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Trump blamed the Democrats for making up the story about potential Russian collusion with his campaign.

In the official letter Trump wrote to Comey upon firing him, the president said: “I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.”

In the interview, however, Trump clarified that his decision had been made before said recommendations. “I was going to fire Comey. My decision. I was going to fire Comey. There is no good time to do it by the way,” he told Holt.

Trump also defended his rationale in delaying the dismissal of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, after former Attorney General Sally Yates informed the president about Flynn’s Russian interactions.

“This man [Flynn] has served for many years, he’s a general, he’s a—in my opinion—a very good person,” Trump said. “I believe that it would be very unfair to hear from somebody who we don’t even know and immediately run out and fire a general.”

Nidia Cavazos

Nidia Cavazos

Nidia Cavazos is a multimedia journalist with an emphasis on political reporting. She's contributed to Univision, KXAN, and USA Today College, and she was named one of six NBC Fellows by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in 2017.