Trump says he was always going to fire Federal Bureau of Investigation director

Mr Trump said in the interview that he never pressured Mr Comey into dropping the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe, adding: "If Russia did anything, I want to know that".

White House officials have also suggested that Comey needed to be fired because he had lost the confidence of the FBI's rank and file, an account disputed by the bureau's current acting director, Andrew McCabe, as well as the heads of two organizations representing current and former FBI agents, analysts and other personnel.

In the interview, Trump trampled all over the White House narrative about why Comey was sacked, insisting that he would have fired Comey regardless of the recommendation he received from his Department of Justice and acknowledging that the FBI's investigation into potential collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials factored into his decision.

The tweet: "James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" (Sessions broke his promise to recuse himself from any Trump campaign-Russia investigations.) But just before the White House news conference on Thursday, Trump did an interview with NBC where he insisted he had chose to fire Comey on his own.

Here is a timeline of explanations provided by the White House and the President since Tuesday.

The White House initially cited a Justice Department memo criticizing Comey's handling of last year's investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails as the impetus for Trump's decision. But the president, in an interview with NBC News, recalled the three occasions, once over dinner and twice over the phone, in which he asked Comey if he was under investigation, to which the FBI director, according to Trump's retelling, said he was not.

Republican chairman of the panel, Richard Burr, and the top Democrat, Mark Warner, praised Mr Comey, with Mr Warner saying he was offended at Mr Trump's remarks. Opponents have claimed that Comey's shock sacking was a bid to stall an FBI investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, which is also looking into possible collusion between the Kremlin and Trump's team.

The White House released a new timeline of events.

"I can not defend the Director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton's emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the almost universal judgment that he was mistaken", Mr Rosenstein goes on to say. She watched as Trump interviewed with Holt, unsure exactly what he'd say. But after Mr Comey's dismissal, Politico reported that the president "had grown enraged by the Russian Federation investigation" and was "frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia".

Trump also reiterated the claim that the Russian Federation story is fabricated in a separate Tweet Friday.

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