• Politics
  • White House

President Trump Links His Decision to Fire James Comey to Frustration With Russia Investigation

3 minute read

President Donald Trump said Thursday that, leading up to his firing of FBI Director James Comey, he had been frustrated with the FBI’s investigation into ties between Russia and his presidential campaign.

The comments came in an interview the President gave to NBC News, in which he said his decision to fire Comey on Tuesday was made independently of recommendations he received from top Justice Department officials. This contradicted the White House’s explanation for why Comey was fired and added to the confusion and controversy surrounding the firing.

“Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey. Knowing, there was no good time to do it,” Trump told NBC News’s Lester Holt. “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.”

Before he was fired, Comey testified before Congress in March that the FBI was investigating Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including any potential collusion with the Trump campaign. Comey had also asked the Department of Justice for more resources for the Russia investigation. The Senate intelligence committee is also subpoenaing a number of Trump’s associates for documents related to an investigation into Russia’s interference in the election.

Trump has repeatedly denied that he or his campaign had any ties to Russia, and this week even tweeted that the “Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax.”

Given Trump’s dismissal of the Russia controversy, Holt pressed him on whether the FBI’s investigation led to Comey’s firing. “Okay, are you angry with, angry with Mr. Comey because of his Russia investigation?” Holt asked.

The President did not answer directly, but said: “I just want somebody that’s competent.” He then added that he is a “big fan” of the FBI. “I love the FBI,” he said.

When Holt followed up to ask whether Trump was “a fan” of Comey investigating his ties to Russia, Trump said he supports the investigation, but thinks it should have finished already.

“Look, look, let me tell you. As far as I’m concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly,” the President said. “When I did this now I said, I probably, maybe will confuse people, maybe I’ll 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. Cause all it is, is an excuse but I said to myself, I might even lengthen out the investigation but I have to do the right thing for the American people. He’s the wrong man for that position.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Abigail Abrams at abigail.abrams@time.com