Trump’s tweetstorm railed against the “fake media” and those who expect his surrogates to defend him with “perfect accuracy,” while giving a stern warning to Comey that he “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
The US president’s tweets attracted millions of re-tweets and overwhelming likes. But almost every new day and a new account of why Trump ruthlessly fired FBI director Comey emerges.
The president said he came to the decision to oust Comey on Tuesday after thinking about how “this Russia thing … is a made up story.”
Comey had been investigating potential links between members of the Trump campaign and Russia and the Kremlin’s alleged interference in the 2016 election.
Trump revealed to Holt that he had been planning to fire Comey even before he received Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s recommendation to do so.
That was a reversal from what members of the administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, had told reporters. White House officials had flatly denied that the Russia investigation had something to do with Comey’s firing.
Trump in his interview with Holt expanded on the conversations he had with Comey after the termination letter he sent to him was made public. “I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation,” Trump wrote.
Trump said those discussions occurred once during dinner and twice over the phone. He gave no indication that those discussions or others were taped.
“I’m not under investigation,” Trump added.
“Did you ask him to drop the investigation?” Holt asked.
“No. Never,” Trump said.
Trump on Friday again tweeted any alleged collusion between his campaign and Russia was “fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election.”
He followed up by attempting to defend his team by saying it’s not their fault if they don’t speak with “perfect accuracy.” He then suggested that he would be open to ending future press briefings.
Trump has repeatedly lashed out at the press. In February — angered by leaks coming out of his administration — Trump accused journalists at a fiery news conference of being dishonest in their reporting of him and blasting reports of Russian interference as “fake news.”
He also questioned Friday when the barrage of coverage would be over:
“When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?”
Clapper, who had resigned last fall as director of national intelligence, told “Meet the Press” in March that there had been no evidence during his tenure that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.
But when asked whether he still believes that the Russians tried to undermine the U.S. election to help Trump win, Clapper said: “Yes, I do.”
President Trump threatened former FBI Director James Comey on Friday, suggesting he might have recorded their private conversations and is prepared to release them if Comey talks to the media.
In an extraordinary tweet, even by Trump’s standards, the president wrote: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
The tweet immediately conjured up thoughts of former President Richard Nixon, who resigned during the Watergate scandal and infamously recorded conversations that helped lead to his decision to step down.
White House officials, however, have rejected such comparisons, and, echoing their boss, say the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling and possible nefarious ties to his campaign is a minor matter on the bureau’s docket.
Neither of Trump’s two principal spokespeople — Sean Spicer or Sara Huckabee Sanders, immediately responded to an email seeking comment about the existence of any tapes.
Comey has kept a low profile since being fired on Tuesday evening, but some of his friends and associates have talked to reporters. Some have said Comey expressed major concerns about Trump, reportedly telling friends the president is “crazy.”
In one of his most memorable morning tweet blasts of his still-young presidency, Trump also lashed out at Democrats and the media, while trying to give Spicer and Sanders cover after a rough week.
Trump also trolled the White House press corps by tweeting that he might cancel “all future” daily press briefings after his press secretary and his top deputy — as well as Vice President Mike Pence — spent 48 hours explaining his decision to fire Comey in ways that the president himself on Thursday made clear were not accurate.
In a Friday morning tweet series, the president appears very much back on his heels and playing defense after setting off a firestorm in a Thursday NBC News interview. He told Lester Holt that he had decided long ago to fire Comey, contradicting what Spicer, Sanders, Pence, and other top aides had told reporters for two days.
Spicer, Sanders, Pence and other top White House officials have vigorously denied that the FBI’s Russia investigation was part of the president’s calculus when he decided to fire Comey.
They all said it Trump made the decision only after Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his top deputy delivered memos to Trump calling for Comey’s termination because he had circumvented Justice Department leadership twice last year in his handling of Hillary Clinton’s personal email server use as secretary of state.
(Sanders later admitted Trump met with the Justice Department officials on Monday, when he asked them to put their concerns and recommendation in writing.)
But in nothing short of a bombshell, Trump torched those denials on Thursday.
“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 have won,’” he told NBC.
Trump fired off yet another tweet just before 9 a.m., referring to comments made by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that he has no knowledge of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Given those comments, Trump asked rhetorically, “When does it end?”
Sanders told reporters Thursday afternoon, about an hour after NBC released snippets of the interview, that she thought the information she delivered Tuesday through Thursday morning were accurate. Why? She only finally talked to Trump about it before Thursday’s press briefing, which occurred after the Holt interview.
That prompted the president to seemingly defend his top aides in a Friday morning tweet.
He described it as impossible for Spicer and Sanders to explain his decision-making and presidency with “perfect accuracy,” because he is “a very active president.”