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Trump Reveals Reasons For Firing FBI Director In News Interview


President Donald Trump's reasons for firing FBI Director James Comey are changing. When the White House first dropped this bombshell, officials said the president made the decision to push Comey out because that's what Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy had recommended. But last night, President Trump said this to Lester Holt of NBC News.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: What I did is I was going to fire Comey - my decision. It was not...

LESTER HOLT: You had made the decision before they came into the room.

TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey.

MARTIN: NPR's Scott Detrow has been following all this. He joins me in the studio. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: At this point, after days of this story unfolding in all kinds of directions, do we know the truth about why James Comey was fired?

DETROW: You know, we don't, but I think there are a lot of signs pointing to the fact that it's probably tied to this investigation into Russia and whether or not there were any communications between Russian operatives and Trump's campaign.

MARTIN: Even though the administration completely denies this.

DETROW: That's right, but let's just walk through this for a little bit. So at first, the White House said this was all about how Comey handled the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails, but the White House walked away from that. And Trump gave a lot of reasons last night in that interview with NBC News. He said Comey was a showboat, that White House officials were saying that the FBI had lost confidence in James Comey. But it was really interesting. At one point, Trump said that when he was thinking about doing this, he was thinking about the Russia investigation.


TRUMP: 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.

MARTIN: So what do all these contradictory statements tell us about how information is disseminated within the White House and from the White House?

DETROW: You know, I think this is a White House staff that's basically at the whim of President Trump. These types of decisions - to fire an FBI director, to do something big like that - are usually well-thought out, well-planned. There's a game plan in place to kind of talk about the reasoning. But you have two days of messaging totally wiped out by the president basically contradicting what people from Sean Spicer, the press secretary, to Vice President Mike Pence had been saying.

And I think all this matters because if the White House is going to say a reason and then back away from it, a lot of people may be left wondering, well, maybe it does have to do with this Russia investigation.

MARTIN: So as you mentioned, one thing the White House keeps saying is that the FBI had lost trust in James Comey. But are they pointing to any evidence of this? How do they know?

DETROW: No, the only evidence that we're seeing is things that White House officials are saying. You know, in the department of perfect timing, James Comey had been scheduled to testify in front of the Senate yesterday. He obviously did not show up, but acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified, and he said this idea that the FBI had lost confidence in Comey is just not the case.


ANDREW MCCABE: Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.

DETROW: McCabe said a couple other interesting things at this hearing. He said that this is a significant investigation and he said, quote, "the FBI will continue to pursue this investigation vigorously and completely." And there's one thing that Trump has been saying. He said that Comey told him that he wasn't under investigation. McCabe did not directly weigh in on that, but he did say we typically do not answer questions like that.

MARTIN: So many questions. We'll keep asking them, trying to get the answers. And NPR's Scott Detrow. Thanks so much for your time this morning, Scott.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
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