WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday he believes the idea that Russia meddled in the 2016 election is a “made-up story” that Democrats are using to explain away his victory.
“When I decided to just do it [fire former FBI Director James Comey], I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing — with Trump and Russia — is a made-up story,” Trump told NBC News in an interview. “It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”
The President’s remarks come despite widespread agreement among US intelligence officials and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle that Russia did indeed interfere in the US election.
US officials — including prominent GOP lawmakers such as Sen. John McCain — have said they were “troubled” by Trump’s abrupt firing of Comey mid-investigation. Many Democratic lawmakers are calling for the appointment special prosecutor to take Comey’s place in leading the investigation.
Rep. Justin Amash, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said in a tweet that the investigation “must be nonpartisan.” He wrote he would be “happy to join” other Republican representatives to cosponsor a bill that calls for an independent Russia investigation.
Following Comey’s dismissal, Trump’s top deputies — including Vice President Mike Pence — publicly said that Trump acted only after receiving the recommendation to fire Comey from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Trump disputed White House accounts by insisting he’d long planned to fire Comey, even before his Justice Department provided him a reason.
“Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey,” he said.
Trump added that he fired Comey because he was a “showboat” and a “grandstander.”