President Trump planned to fire FBI Director James B. Comey even if his attorney general had not recommended his dismissal, Trump said in an interview Thursday, contradicting his previous written statement and the accounts White House officials have provided over the past two days.
"I was going to fire Comey-- my decision. There is no good time to do it, by the way," Trump told NBC News’s Lester Holt. “I was going to fire regardless of recommendation."
In his letter notifying Comey that he had been fired, Trump said he was acting at the recommendation of Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod J. Rosenstein. White House officials over the last two days repeatedly have said that Trump had a conversation about Comey with Sessions and Rosenstein on Monday and decided Tuesday based on their recommendation.
But Trump insisted in the interview that he had already made up is mind to terminate the FBI director.
"He's a showboat, he's grand-stander, the FBI has been in turmoil," Trump said of Comey. "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," he said.
Trump also described Comey telling him on three separate occasions – once during a dinner and twice on the phone -- that he was not under investigation.
Since last year, the FBI has been investigating what contacts the Russian government may have had with associates of Trump during the campaign.
"I said, if it's possible would you let me know, 'Am I under investigation?"
"He said, 'You are not under investigation'," Trump said.
It is highly unusual for a sitting president who has authority over the FBI to ask about an existing investigation, although such action probably does not violate the law, legal experts have said.
Trump noted that the denial didn't involve others in his campaign.
"I'm not talking about campaigns. I'm not talking about anything else," he said. "I'm not under investigation."
In the wide-ranging interview, Trump also insisted there was no "collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians."