WASHINGTON President Donald Trump on Thursday called ousted FBI chief James Comey a “showboat” and “grandstander,” but its acting leader contradicted the president and promised the agency’s probe into possible Trump campaign ties to Russia would proceed with vigor.
Trump, facing Democratic accusations that he fired Comey on Tuesday to hinder the FBI investigation into alleged meddling by Russia in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, said he would have taken the action even without a recommendation to do so by the two top Justice Department officials. That ran counter to previous administration explanations of Comey’s dismissal.
The Republican president also gave further details of his account that Comey informed him three times that he was not under investigation.
Trump’s personal attack on Comey seemed designed to underline that Comey’s dismissal was about his performance at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and not a probe that has hung over Trump’s presidency since he took office in January and threatens to overwhelm his policy priorities.
In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, testifying in place of Comey, promised to tell the panel of any White House meddling into the agency’s probe. Democrats have called for a special prosecutor to look into the Russia matter.
“He’s a showboat. He’s a grandstander,” Trump told NBC News in his first interview since firing Comey. “The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that.”
The White House and Vice President Mike Pence have said Trump fired Comey on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and No. 2 Justice Department official Rod Rosenstein.
On Thursday, Trump said: “I was going to fire Comey. My decision,” Trump said. “I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.”
Trump told NBC News he never pressured Comey into dropping the FBI probe, adding: “If Russia did anything, I want to know that.” Trump said there was no “collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians,” but added that “the Russians did not affect the vote.”
McCabe’s testimony contradicted Trump’s appraisal of turmoil at the FBI under Comey.
“I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” McCabe said.
“I can tell you that I hold Director Comey in the absolute highest regard. I have the highest respect for his considerable abilities and his integrity,” McCabe added. “And it has been the greatest privilege and honor of my professional life to work with him.”
Trump will not visit FBI headquarters in Washington as expected after agency officials told the White House he would not be greeted warmly following his firing of Comey, MSNBC reported on Thursday.
‘VIGOROUSLY AND COMPLETELY’
McCabe vowed no letup in the investigation.
“It is my opinion and belief that the FBI will…