I don't know how many people saw the interview between Lester Holt of NBC News and Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States last night, but I found it to be an illuminating half an hour. As usual, Mr. Holt did a good job in his chat with the President.
The interview consisted of a lot of conversation around the recent firing of FBI Director James Comey. As we have all seen, the White House communications staff along with the VIce President of the United States, MIke Pence, have maintained that the firing came upon the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The President had something else to say. When asked about the matter, Mr. Trump responded that he had made the decision to fire Comey much earlier. Saying "There is no good time to do this", he sides-stepped the issue about the memo from the Deputy Attorney General and said that he had already decided to remove the Director, and had asked for counsel from the AG, Mr. Sessions and the Deputy AG.
Mr. Holt also asked about the statement in the termination letter written by the President that had thanked the Director for informing him on three separate occasions that "he was not under investigation". When pressed, the President said that the occasions for the statements by the Director came at a dinner, and two telephone calls where Comey assured Mr. Trump he wasn't the subject of an investigation. Mr. Trump offered his side of the conversation:
"I actually asked him" if I were under investigation, Trump said, noting that he spoke with Comey once over dinner and twice by phone.
"I said, if it's possible would you let me know, am I under investigation? He said, 'You are not under investigation.'"
The president also said that he welcomes an investigation into potential Russian action in the election of 2016. He indicated he wants to get to the bottom of this quickly, but he also said that this whole thing was made up by the Democrats still smarting from an election loss.
What is telling about this interview is not so much about what was said, but what a stark contrast relative to the accounts of Mr. Comey's dismissal to what we were told just a couple of days ago. There is a major gap in the telling of the tale from the Press Secretary and the Vice President and what the President said. So, the question is: Who is lying here? Is it Spicer, Sanders and Pence? Is it Trump? Second question is: Can anything coming from the White House be trusted?
The press has a lot to parse through given all the different accounts of the Director's dismissal. Not only the way it was done, but also the account from the President that the FBI was in turmoil over the last year. Acting FBI Director McCabe, testifying in front of the Senate yesterday refuted the President's spokespeople that the people FBI had lost respect or confidence Director Comey. The Acting Director indicated that Mr. Comey enjoyed a wide level of support and respect amongst the thousands of employees of the FBI.
One thing is sure, there will be more information coming on this topic and it will be very interesting to see how things shake out.