TRUMP DE­NIES RUS­SIAN LINKS

For­mer FBI chief Comey a ‘show­boat’ at­ten­tion-seeker, says US pres­i­dent

New Straits Times - - World -

UNITED States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in­sisted on Thurs­day that there was “no col­lu­sion” be­tween his win­ning cam­paign and the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment, in his first ex­tended re­marks since he roiled the cap­i­tal with his de­ci­sion to fire Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (FBI) di­rec­tor, James Comey.

In an in­ter­view with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump slammed Comey as a “show­boat” at­ten­tion-seeker who had lost the con­fi­dence of the pres­i­dent and the agency he led.

“Look, he’s a show­boat, a grand­stander. The FBI has been in tur­moil,” Trump said. “You know that, I know that. Ev­ery­body knows that.”

The White House de­nied that Comey’s fir­ing on Tues­day had any­thing to do with the FBI’s con­tin­u­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence in the US elec­tion, in­clud­ing the pos­si­ble role of Trump cam­paign aides and as­so­ci­ates. Trump de­nied any in­volve­ment.

“There’s no col­lu­sion be­tween me and my cam­paign and the Rus­sians,” he said on Thurs­day.

But Trump ac­knowl­edged, dur­ing the in­ter­view, that he’d con­sid­ered the po­ten­tial ram­i­fi­ca­tion of his de­ci­sion on the in­quiry.

“When I did this now I said, ‘I prob­a­bly, maybe, will con­fuse peo­ple, maybe I’ll ex­pand that, you know, lengthen the time, be­cause it should be over with, in my opin­ion, should have been over with a long time ago, cause all it is, is an ex­cuse,” he said.

Trump aides had in­sisted in the af­ter­math of Comey’s sur­prise dis­missal that the pres­i­dent had gone ahead with the fir­ing based on the rec­om­men­da­tions of his deputy at­tor­ney-gen­eral, Rod Rosen­stein.

But Trump threw that ex­pla­na­tion un­der the bus.

“Oh I was go­ing to fire Comey, re­gard­less of rec­om­men­da­tion,” he told Holt.

“Rosen­stein made a rec­om­men­da­tion. He’s highly re­spected, a very good guy, very smart guy, the Democrats like him, the Repub­li­cans like him, he made a rec­om­men­da­tion but re­gard­less of the rec­om­men­da­tion, I was go­ing to fire Comey,” he said.

Trump said Comey had as­sured him, dur­ing a din­ner and in two sub­se­quent phone calls, that he was not per­son­ally un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I ac­tu­ally asked him,” Trump re­called. “I said, ‘If it’s pos­si­ble would you let me know, am I un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion?’ He said, ‘You are not un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.’”

The pres­i­dent showed no con­cern that the in­quiry could be viewed as in­ter­fer­ence into an on­go­ing FBI probe, or that his con­duct could be seen as a warn­ing to Comey’s even­tual suc­ces­sor to steer clear of ques­tions about the cam­paign’s pos­si­ble ties to Rus­sia’s elec­tion med­dling. AP

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