On Capitol Hill, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe strongly disputed the White House's assertion that Comey had been fired in part because he had lost the confidence of the FBI's rank-and-file. The paper said the U.S. president had made a shortlist of nearly a dozen of potential picks.
Justice Department officials said the decision to fire Comey was based on the conclusion that he had treated Hillary Clinton unfairly in his investigation into her e-mail scandal during the 2016 presidential election, damaging the FBI's credibility.
Despite insisting that there was no wrongdoing by the Trump campaign in regard to Russia, Trump said that he wanted things to be "absolutely done properly".
News of firing took many White House officials by surprise, forcing them to scramble to provide explanations that proceeded to change in the hours and days after the news broke.
The New York Times first reported Thursday night that Trump demanded during the dinner that Comey declare his loyalty to the president, and that Comey declined. "After watching Director Comey's testimony last Wednesday, the president was strongly inclined to remove him", she said.
The shifting accounts of the decision to fire Comey, whom Trump derided as a "showboat" and "grandstander", added to a mounting sense of uncertainty and chaos in the West Wing, as aides scrambled to get their stories straight and appease an angry president.
"I can confidently tell you that the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey", Mr McCabe said.
Paris - "La droite tient", assure Accoyer (LR)
Accoyer a jugé qu'Edouard Philippe "s'est mis en dehors de notre famille politique, il a quitté lui-même notre mouvement".
Mr McCabe said he could not comment on an ongoing inquiry. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not "reliable" in the conventional political sense...
As the Times concluded, "it is certain to fuel bipartisan criticism that President Trump appeared to be meddling in an investigation that had the potential to damage his presidency". Trump says it was Comey's idea, to make nice with the new boss in hopes of keeping his job. Due to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recusal on the matter, it's Mr Rosenstein's call whether to appoint a special counsel to head the Justice Department's Russian Federation investigation.
Comey was caught off guard by the firing, which he learned about from televisions turned on behind him during a public appearance, and has issued only one public statement since his dismissal.
"In fact when I made a decision to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russian Federation thing with Trump and Russian Federation is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won", he said. If Trump wants "loyalty" from the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the best thing Comey could do for his agency would be to politely decline and stay in place, to block Trump from installing someone for whom "loyalty" is a higher priority.
Trump said he had never asked Comey to drop the Russian investigation, nor had anyone from the White House.
"The question before us now is whether Trump will get away with it", writes Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessy in the Lawfare Blog. He said there has been no interference so far.
That decision in Comey's case, however, becomes legally problematic if it is done with the intent of circumventing an investigation.
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