In a White House interview Thursday afternoon, President Trump told Lester Holt that he was preparing to fire FBI Director Comey regardless of the recommendations from the attorney general and deputy attorney general. This contradicts multiple accounts from his communications team and Vice President Pence over the past few days, who suggested he was following the recommendation of the deputy attorney general.
Unedited relevant transcript (above video from NBC News is edited, see below for uncut full interview, see here for complete transcript and video):
TRUMP: Look, [Comey]'s a showboat. He's a grandstander.
The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that.
You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil -- less than a year ago. It hasn't recovered from that.
HOLT: Monday you met with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
HOLT: Did you ask for a recommendation?
TRUMP: What I did is I was going to fire Comey. My decision. It was not...
HOLT: You had made the decision before they came into your office (ph).
TRUMP: I -- I was going to fire Comey. I -- there's no good time to do it, by the way.
HOLT: Because in your letter, you said...
TRUMP: They -- they were...
HOLT: ...I -- I accepted -- accepted their recommendations.
TRUMP: Yeah, well, they also...
HOLT: So, you had already made the decision.
TRUMP: Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.
HOLT: So, there was...
TRUMP: They -- he made a recommendation. He's highly respected. Very good guy, very smart guy.
And the Democrats like him. The Republicans like him.
He had made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it
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've won.
And the reason they should've won it is the electoral college is almost impossible for a Republican to win. It's very hard because you start off at such a disadvantage. So, everybody was thinking they should've won the election. This was an excuse for having lost an election.
HOLT: But were -- are you angry...
HOLT: ...angry with Mr. Comey because of his Russia investigation?
TRUMP: I just want somebody that's competent. I am a big fan of the FBI. I love the FBI.
HOLT: But were you a fan of...
TRUMP: ...people of the FBI.
HOLT: him taking up that investigation?
TRUMP: I think that -- about the Hillary Clinton investigation?
HOLT: No, about -- about the Russian investigation and possible...
TRUMP: No, I don't care...
HOLT: ...links between...
TRUMP: Look -- look, let me tell you. As far as I'm concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly.
When I did this now, I said I probably maybe will confuse people. Maybe I'll expand that -- you know, I'll lengthen the time because it should be over with. It should -- in my opinion, should've been over with a long time ago because it -- all it is an excuse.
But I said to myself I might even lengthen out the investigation. But I have to do the right thing for the American people.
He's the wrong man for that position.