White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says ousted FBI chief James Comey's behavior made it 'pretty evident' as to why President Trump called him a 'showboat' and 'grandstander.' Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) President Donald Trump blasted ousted FBI chief James Comey as a "showboat" and "grandstander" on Thursday even as the agency's acting leader contradicted the president's account that the FBI had been in turmoil before he fired Comey. In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, acting Federal Bureau of Investigation director Andrew McCabe promised to tell the panel of any White House meddling into the agency's probe into possible collusion between Russia and Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. McCabe testified in place of Comey, who Trump abruptly dismissed as FBI director on Tuesday in an action that has roiled Washington. Democrats have accused the Republican president of trying to foil the FBI's probe into Moscow's actions and many have called for a special prosecutor to look into the matter. "He's a showboat. He's a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil," Trump told NBC News in his first interview since firing Comey. "I was going to fire Comey. My decision," Trump said. "I was going to fire regardless of recommendation." Trump told NBC News he never pressured Comey into dropping the FBI probe, adding, "If Russia did anything, I want to know that. Trump said there was no "collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians" but added that "the Russians did not affect the vote." McCabe's testimony contradicted Trump's appraisal of turmoil at the FBI under Comey. "I can tell you also that Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day," McCabe said. "I can tell you that I hold Director Comey in the absolute highest regard. I have the highest respect for his considerable abilities and his integrity," McCabe added. "And it has been the greatest privilege and honor of my professional life to work with him." Trump told NBC he had previously asked Comey whether he was under investigation in the Russia matter, speaking with Comey once over dinner and twice by telephone. "I said, 'If it's possible, would you let me know, am I under investigation?'" Trump told NBC. "He said, 'You are not under investigation.'" Comey has neither publicly discussed conversations with Trump nor has he publicly commented on his dismissal. McCabe testified it was not typical practice to tell a person they are not a target of an investigation. At the daily White House briefing, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked whether it was a conflict of interest for a president to ask the FBI chief such a question. She answered: "No, I don't believe it is."