Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein isn’t happy that White House officials tried to blame the firing of FBI Director James Comey on him, and President Donald Trump admitted Thursday he was going to fire him anyway.
"I was going to fire [Comey]," Trump told NBC News' Lester Holt in an interview. "Regardless of the recommendation, I was going to fire Comey."
Prior to this revelation, Vice President Mike Pence and deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly cited Rosenstein’s memo recommending Comey’s removal as director of the FBI, leveraging the deputy attorney general’s reputation to justify that Comey’s firing was deserved.
"He is a man of extraordinary independence and integrity and a reputation in both political parties of great character – came to work, sat down and made the recommendation for the FBI to be able to do its job, that it would need new leadership," Huckabee Sanders said in a news conference Wednesday.
Rosenstein, confirmed just two weeks ago, earned broad bipartisan support in a 94 to 6 vote.
Comey’s firing drew sharp criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill as it came just as the FBI’s investigation into potential coordination between Trump campaign members and the Russian election hacking scheme intensified.
In the NBC interview, Trump accused Comey of sending the FBI into turmoil following his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
“He’s a showboat, he’s a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that. I know that. Everybody knows that,” he said.
But acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe contradicted Trump’s statements in testimony before the Senate on Thursday, indicating Comey had “broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.”