The Latest: Trump calls Comey ‘showboat,’ ‘grandstander’

The Associated Press

by AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and the FBI (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump says former FBI Director James Comey is a “showboat” and a “grandstander” who has brought turmoil to the agency.

Trump, who abruptly fired Comey earlier this week, tells NBC News in an interview Thursday that the FBI was in “virtual turmoil” less than a year ago and hasn’t recovered.

Asked about Trump’s description of Comey, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Trump’s comment was “probably based on the numerous appearances” that Comey has made. Comey has testified before Congress, in public and closed sessions, several times this year.

His public appearances regarding the FBI investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election were nationally televised.

Sanders says Trump’s comment didn’t leave “a lot of room for interpretation” and it was “pretty clear” what he meant.


4:20 p.m.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is backing up President Donald Trump’s claim that he’s not under FBI investigation.

Current and former law enforcement officials have questioned Trump’s claim that former FBI Director James Comey informed him three times he was not under investigation. Trump fired Comey Tuesday via a letter in which he made the claim about not being under investigation.

Grassley says he and top committee Democrat Dianne Feinstein were briefed recently by Comey, and “didn’t hear, in our briefing by Comey, anything that departed from what was said in that letter.”

Grassley also says his committee will be hearing from Comey in a closed session, though he didn’t say when.

Grassley, R-Iowa, made his comments in an interview Thursday for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program.


4:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump is tweeting at comedienne Rosie O’Donnell as he defends his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.

Trump on Thursday retweeted a December message from O’Donnell that read “FIRE COMEY.” He replied: “We finally agree on something Rosie.”

Trump’s abrupt decision to fire Comey earlier this week has come under criticism, particularly from Democrats who question why the president removed him in the middle of an FBI investigation into Trump associates’ contacts with Russia.

Trump and O’Donnell have publicly feuded in the past, with Trump making derogatory comments about O’Donnell’s looks and weight.


4:10 p.m.

The Republican and Democratic lawmakers leading a House investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election say they’ll conduct “rigorous oversight” of the FBI’s own investigation into the matter.

Republican Rep. Mike Conaway and Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff are responding to President Donald Trump’s decision to fire James Comey, the former FBI director who was overseeing the FBI investigation into Russia’s actions and potential Trump campaign collusion. Comey’s firing this week raised concerns about potential White House interference in that investigation.

Conaway and Schiff are leading a separate House intelligence committee investigation and say they’ll pursue it in a “thorough and nonpartisan fashion.”

But the lawmakers also say they’ll scrutinize the FBI’s work. They say they want to ensure the FBI probe “is not impeded or interfered with in any way.”


2:30 p.m.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan says an investigation into Russia’s election meddling and possible ties to the Trump campaign should remain with the FBI and not with a special prosecutor.

Ryan stopped at a southern Wisconsin manufacturer Thursday where he promoted Republican tax reform plans. The speaker says the investigation involves deeply classified intelligence collection and should not be turned over to independent investigators.

In response to Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s testimony before a Senate committee in Washington Thursday that fired director James Comey “enjoyed broad support within the FBI,” Ryan countered that Comey had lost the support of senior leadership at the Justice Department.

Ryan said President Donald Trump listened to the concerns and criticisms voiced by “lots of different people” in making his decision to fire Comey.


1:50 p.m.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe has promised to tell the Senate intelligence committee if there is any effort to interfere with the agency’s investigation into Russian activities during last year’s presidential election.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, asked McCabe during a hearing Thursday whether he would commit to informing the committee of any such attempts.

McCabe replied, “I absolutely do.”

Warner’s question alludes to concerns in Congress that President Donald Trump fired James Comey as FBI director to throw a wrench in the agency’s investigation into Russian election meddling. A key question in the probe is whether any of Trump’s associates coordinated with the Russian government to influence voters.


1:25 p.m.

Senate intelligence committee leaders caused a stir when they abruptly left a congressional hearing on world threats to meet with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Speculation swirled that the meeting signaled a development in the ongoing saga of why President Donald Trump fired James Comey as FBI director.

The media gathered outside the meeting, but Sens. Richard Burr and Mark Warner emerged, saying Comey’s firing wasn’t discussed.

Rather, the senators said the meeting was about how the Senate intelligence committee probe into Russian activities during last year’s election could proceed without interfering with the FBI’s investigation into the matter.

Rosenstein has said Comey was fired over his handling of the Clinton email investigation. But critics think Trump was trying to disrupt the FBI’s investigation into his campaign’s contacts with Russia.


1:20 p.m.

The top Senate Democrat is telling the deputy attorney general that his reputation for integrity and impartiality is in jeopardy over his role in the abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey.

In a letter Thursday, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer writes to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that there is widespread skepticism about the rationale for Comey’s firing. Rosenstein’s memo faulted the FBI director’s handling of the probe into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for government business.

Schumer asked a series of questions about the circumstances surrounding Comey’s dismissal that he wants answered by Monday.

He said the responses are necessary to “restore the nation’s faith in you personally and in our law enforcement system more broadly.”


1:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump says “I know that I’m not under investigation” for collusion with Russia.

Trump detailed his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, who he fired this week, in an interview with NBC News Thursday.

Trump said that he spoke with Comey once during dinner and twice in phone calls, during which time he says Comey told him “you are not under investigation.”

He says he initiated one phone call, and Comey initiated the other.

In his termination letter to Comey, sent to reporters on Tuesday, Trump thanked him for informing him “three times” that he is not under investigation.

Trump says, “I know that I’m not under investigation. Me personally. I’m not talking about campaigns or anything else. I am not under investigation.”


1 p.m.

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.


12:55 p.m.

The furor over President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey 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


12:15 p.m.

The chairman and senior Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee have abruptly left a hearing on world threats to meet with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

Congressional staffers confirm that the two are meeting in a room next to the hearing where top law enforcement and intelligence officials are being questioned about the Russia investigation and Comey’s firing.

It is unclear what the meeting is about. Video posted on Twitter by ABC News shows Rosenstein and other officials, including Dana Boente, the head of the Justice Department’s national security division, walking into the room.


11:51 a.m.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe disagrees with the White House suggestion that it’s a low priority of the FBI to investigate Russian interference in the election and potential Trump campaign collusion.

McCabe says it’s a “highly significant investigation,” contradicting statements made by the White House downplaying the significance. On Wednesday, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was “probably one of the smallest things” that the FBI has “got going on their plate.”

McCabe tells a Senate panel that he would not describe the investigation that way. Still, McCabe is declining to say exactly how many FBI personnel are involved in the investigation. McCabe says he can’t discuss that in a public setting.


11:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump says ousted FBI Director James 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.


11:35 a.m.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe is contradicting the White House claim that fired director James Comey had lost the support of rank-and-file members of the bureau.

The White House used that assertion to justify Comey’s firing. But McCabe says the claim is not accurate. He says Comey “enjoyed broad support” within the agency and that he holds Comey in the “absolute highest regard.”

He says it was the “greatest privilege” of his career to serve under him.


11:30 a.m.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe has agreed to refrain from updating the White House about an investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election.

McCabe made the commitment under questioning Thursday at a Senate hearing.

He was made acting director Tuesday evening following the firing of director James Comey. Justice Department leaders are interviewing other contenders for the position.

McCabe earlier would not confirm President Donald Trump’s assertions that Comey had told him multiple times that he was not under investigation.

—This item has been corrected to show Trump asserted Comey told him he was not under investigation, restoring the dropped word “not.”


11:25 a.m.

Top Democrats want answers from the Justice Department about whether ousted FBI Director James Comey asked his superiors for additional resources to investigate Russia’s interference in last year’s elections.

Sens. Patrick Leahy and Jeanne Shaheen of the powerful Appropriations panel sent Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein a letter asking for details. Rosenstein’s memo on Tuesday harshly criticizing Comey and recommended his dismissal.

Leahy and Shaheen want details about Comey’s request to his higher-ups at Justice on the Russia probe. They also want to know whether the White House or Congress was alerted to the request.

Vermont Democrat Leahy and New Hampshire Democrat Shaheen said that the FBI “should spare no expense in getting to the truth” about Russian interference in the campaign.


11 a.m.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe won’t confirm President Donald Trump’s account that fired director James Comey told him he wasn’t under investigation.

McCabe is testifying Thursday at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on national security threats.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Richard Burr, asked McCabe if Comey had ever told Trump that he was not the subject of any investigation. In his letter Tuesday firing Comey, Trump said Comey had told him three times that he was not under investigation.

McCabe told Burr that he could not comment on any conversations between Trump and Comey.


10:48 a.m.

GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah says the next FBI director should be Merrick Garland — the federal judge nominated to the Supreme Court last year by President Barack Obama.

Garland never got a hearing due to Republican obstruction, and the high court vacancy was filled last month by Neil Gorsuch.

Lee says over Twitter that Garland could restore trust to the FBI after President Donald Trump fired Director James Comey.

Lee raised the idea directly to White House staff on Wednesday, according to an aide.

The proposal drew a positive reaction from one Democratic senator, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who praised it over Twitter.

There would be an important side benefit for Trump: A vacancy on the critical D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals which Trump could then fill.


10:30 a.m.

The senior Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee is accusing the White House of not taking the investigation into Russia and the election seriously.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia says the firing of former FBI Director James Comey will in no way deter the committee from finding out the truth of what happened during the 2016 presidential election.

Warner said the timing of Comey’s dismissal by President Donald Trump is troubling.

He says Comey was scheduled to appear at Thursday’s hearing and that his absence cost the committee an opportunity to get at the truth, at least for a day.


7:10 a.m.

A spokeswoman for President Donald Trump is suggesting that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who wrote a memo justifying FBI Director James Comey’s firing, be selected to take over the Russia investigation.

Appearing on NBC’s “Today” show, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders calls Rosenstein a person “who sets the gold standard within the legal system.”

She also says “I am not aware” of reports he threatened to resign over the way the Comey dismissal was attributed in part to the memo he wrote. But Sanders also said the Trump White House isn’t trying to quash the investigation. “Any investigation that was taking place on Monday is still taking place today,” she said.

Democrats who are urging the naming of a special counsel argue this would be the best way to take politics out of the probe. Sanders said she thought Rosenstein, the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, was “a perfect example of what you would be looking for in terms of an independent person to come in and helm this investigation.”


3:05 a.m.

Days before he was fired by Donald Trump, FBI Director James Comey requested more resources to pursue his investigation into Russia’s election meddling and the possible involvement of Trump associates, U.S. officials say, fueling concerns that Trump was trying to undermine a probe that could threaten his presidency.

It was unclear whether word of the Comey request, put to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, ever made its way to Trump. But the revelation intensified the pressure on the White House from both political parties to explain the motives behind Comey’s stunning ouster.

Trump is the first president since Richard Nixon to fire a law enforcement official overseeing an investigation with ties to the White House. Democrats quickly accused Trump of using Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation as a pretext and called for a special prosecutor into the Russia probe. Republican leaders brushed off the idea as unnecessary.


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