President Donald Trump says in an interview that he had planned to fire FBI Director James Comey regardless of the recommendation from his deputy attorney general, contrary to earlier statements from the White House.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday he would have fired FBI Director James Comey even without the recommendation from his top political appointees at the Justice Department, contradicting earlier White House accounts.

 

He insisted anew that Comey had told him directly three separate times that he personally was not under investigation.

 

“I was going to fire Comey,” Trump said in an interview with NBC. The White House and Vice President Mike Pence have said the president acted on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

 

“Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey,” Trump said.

 

Trump’s comments came amid increased criticism of the White House’s evolving explanation of the firing.

 

In public testimony Thursday, the acting FBI director, Andrew McCabe, contradicted White House statements about why Comey was dismissed, particularly the assertion that Comey had lost the confidence of the rank and file of the FBI.

 

“That is not accurate,” McCabe said in response to a senator’s question. “I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.”

 

In the NBC interview, Trump repeated his assertion that Comey three times assured him he was not under investigation.

 

“He said it once at dinner, and then he said it twice during phone calls,” Trump said.

 

McCabe told senators it is not standard FBI practice to tell someone he or she is or isn’t under investigation. He would not comment on conversations between Trump and the FBI director.

 

The White House refused Wednesday to provide any evidence or greater detail. Former FBI agents said such a statement by the director would be all but unthinkable.

 

 

 

 

The dramatic firing of Comey has left the fate of the FBI’s probe into Russia’s election meddling and possible ties to the Trump campaign deeply uncertain. The investigation has shadowed Trump from the outset of his presidency, though he’s denied any ties to Russia or knowledge of any campaign coordination with Moscow.

 

McCabe called the Russia investigation “highly significant” — another contradiction of the White House portrayal — and assured senators Comey’s firing will not hinder it. He promised he would tolerate no interference from the White House and would not provide the administration with updates on its progress.

 

“You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing,” he declared. He said there has been no interference so far.

 

 

 

Days before he was fired, Comey requested more resources to pursue his investigation, U.S. officials have said, fueling concerns that Trump was trying to undermine a probe that could threaten his presidency. McCabe said he was not aware of any such request and said the Russia investigation is adequately resourced.

 

It was unclear whether word of the Comey request, said to have been put to Rosenstein, ever made its way to Trump. But the revelation intensified the pressure on the White House from both political parties to explain the motives behind Comey’s stunning ouster.

 

The chairman and top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee abruptly left the hearing Thursday to meet with Rosenstein, who is McCabe’s boss. The senators said later that the Russia investigations were discussed but Comey’s firing was not.