Speed Reads

Trump fires James Comey

Watch Trump, Huckabee Sanders explain how firing James Comey relates to ending the Russia investigation

Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders talk Russia

By Thursday, the White House's original explanation for why President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey — he just followed the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — was defunct, despite White House officials like Vice President Mike Pence and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders standing by it until Thursday, when Trump himself threw that rationale out the window. "Oh, I was gonna fire regardless of recommendation," Trump told NBC News' Lester Holt.

Trump went on to suggest that the FBI's investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian government, which Comey was leading, played at least some part in his decision. "Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it," Trump said. "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 have won."

After Trump explained his theory that it is very hard for Republicans to win the Electoral College, he said he knew firing Comey in the middle of the Russia investigation might "confuse people," he wants the investigation "to be absolutely done properly," and he'd considered the idea to "expand that, you know, lengthen the time — because it should be over with, in my opinion, should have been over with a long time ago." Trump decided not to "lengthen out the investigation," he said, because "I have to do the right thing for the American people."

Huckabee Sanders, whose job it is to clarify White House positions, did her best at Thursday afternoon's press briefing. "We want this to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to its conclusion with integrity," she said of the investigation. "And we think that we've actually, by removing Director Comey, taken steps to make that happen."

CNN called that "a surprising admission from the White House that Comey's sudden dismissal on Tuesday may have an effect on the Russia probe." Typically, the White House firing an FBI director investigating the president or his associates, with the stated reason that it would hasten the end of that investigation, would be frowned upon in legal circles.