US President Donald Trump has insisted he is not under investigation, while dismissing the FBI director he fired as a “showboat” and “grandstander”.
Mr Trump also told NBC News it was his decision alone to sack James Comey.
Mr Comey was leading an inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the US election and possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Moscow.
Mr Trump has dismissed the probe as a “charade”, a claim directly contradicted by Mr Comey’s successor.
In his first interview since firing the
FBI director, Mr Trump told NBC News on Thursday he had asked Mr Comey whether he was under investigation.
“I said, if it’s possible would you let me know, ‘Am I under investigation?’ He said: ‘You are not under investigation.'”
“I know I’m not under investigation,” Mr Trump told the interviewer, repeating a claim he made in Tuesday’s letter of dismissal to Mr Comey.
Trump’s dinner description challenged
President Trump said Mr Comey first told him this at a dinner at the White House, which the FBI chief had requested because “he wanted to stay on” in his post under the new administration.
But NBC later quoted an unnamed former senior FBI official close to Mr Comey as saying it was the White House that had requested the dinner, and that Mr Comey would not have told the president he was not under investigation.
“He would say, ‘look sir, I really can’t get into it, an
d you don’t want me to’,” the former official was quoted as saying.
The White House has rejected concerns raised by legal experts that the conversation, as described by Trump, may have been improper.
Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she “did not see it as a conflict of interest”.
According to the New York Times, two people who had heard Mr Comey’s account – apparently of the same dinner – said Mr Comey declined a request to pledge loyalty to Mr Trump, but said he would be honest with him.
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The president also appeared to undercut the initial White House explanation that he had fired Mr Comey on the recommendation of top justice officials.
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“He’s a showboat. He’s a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. I was going to fire Comey. My decision,” Mr Trump said.
White House officials had previously pinned the decision on a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which Mr Trump refers to in the opening paragraph of his termination letter to Mr Comey, saying, “I have accepted their recommendation”.
But he told NBC: “I was going to fire him regardless of the recommendation.”