Trump Reverses Himself and Denies Firing Comey Over Russia Probe

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump contradicted what he said in a televised interview last year on Thursday, denying that he fired former FBI Director James Comey over his role in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"Not that it matters but I never fired James Comey because of Russia! The Corrupt Mainstream Media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true!" Trump said Thursday in a Twitter posting.

The statement contradicts what Trump told NBC Nightly News’s Lester Holt last year in a televised interview.

“Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey,” Trump told Holt of his decision to fire Comey on May 9, 2017. “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,”’ he added.

Comey’s ouster eventually led Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel who is independent of both the department and the White House after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.

The White House initially said Trump fired Comey at the recommendation of Sessions and Rosenstein. Rosenstein had written a three-page letter faulting Comey for his handling of an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s email practices as secretary of State. Trump was interviewed by Holt a few days later.

Trump’s comments on Thursday followed a barrage of attacks in recent days targeting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.

On Tuesday, Trump alleged Mueller’s investigation “will be MEDDLING with the mid-term elections,” without providing an explanation of how he believed the inquiry would impact the coming congressional races. Later in the morning, Trump said he needed to “start focusing my energy” on other policy priorities and “not on the Rigged Russia Witch Hunt” that he argued should instead be examining his political opponents.

Over the holiday weekend, the president repeatedly tweeted commentary from guests appearing on Fox News criticizing the inquiry led by Mueller’s team. And on Sunday, the president asked who would “give back the young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt?”

Four former Trump advisers have been charged in relation to the probe, with three of those individuals already pleading guilty.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani defended the president’s attacks against Mueller and labeled the investigation “illegitimate” during an interview with CNN that was broadcast Sunday. Asked if his legal strategy involved an effort to undermine the probe, Giuliani said the Trump legal team “couldn’t do it if they didn’t have the material.”

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