WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says in an interview that he had planned to fire FBI Director James Comey regardless of the recommendation from his deputy attorney general, contrary to earlier statements from the White House.
Trump says in the NBC News interview he had made up his mind to dismiss Comey before he met Monday with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
White House officials had said earlier in the week that Trump asked Sessions and Rosenstein for their opinions about Comey, and then Trump acted on those recommendations.
Meanwhile, the furor over the firing threatens to overshadow the GOP's legislative agenda on health care, tax reform and more.
Add in a potentially contentious battle over the next FBI director, and the Republicans' already difficult task of getting bills onto Trump's desk just got harder.
Even though no Democratic votes will be needed to confirm the next FBI director — since it will take a simple majority vote — the fight is certain to be heated. Democrats and Republicans alike are laying down markers for a candidate of unimpeachable integrity who could restore trust in the bureau.
Past FBI directors, including Comey, have been approved by overwhelming bipartisan margins. Comey was approved on a vote of 93-1 in 2013, with GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky the only dissenting vote.
Earlier Trump said Comey told him three times that he was not under investigation, but the acting FBI director is telling Congress that's not standard practice.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins serves on the Senate intelligence committee. Collins asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe if the FBI typically tells people that they are not a target of investigation.
McCabe said he couldn't comment on what Comey might or might not have told the president, but that it's not standard practice to inform someone that they are not a target.
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