During an interview conducted just days after the firing of James Comey, President Trump admitted that his annoyance with the Russia investigation motivated his decision to terminate the FBI director.
“And in fact when I decided to just do it [i.e., fire Comey], 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,'” Trump said during the interview, which aired on May 11.
As ThinkProgress wrote at the time, Trump’s acknowledgment that the investigation into his campaign motivated his decision to fire Comey seemed to amount to an obstruction of justice confession. The White House took steps to prevent Trump from again speaking so frankly to a journalist — his interview with Holt remains the most recent one he’s done with a non-Fox News TV journalist.
Eleven months later, Trump is trying to walk it back. Amid a week where he and his allies are pulling out all the stops in an effort to discredit Comey — whose new book contains a number of incriminating anecdotes about Trump — Trump tweeted on Wednesday that Comey “was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!”
Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
Trump did not bother to try and explain the contradiction between what he said last May and what he’s saying now.
Comey’s firing led to deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation. Part of Mueller’s investigation pertains to whether Trump obstructed justice when he fired Comey.
Last month, Bloomberg reported that Mueller’s obstruction investigation is “close to completion, but he may set it aside while he finishes other key parts of his probe, such as possible collusion and the hacking of Democrats.” In the wake of last week’s FBI raid of his personal lawyer, the president has reportedly cooled on the idea of sitting for an interview with Mueller’s team.
Trump responded to that raid by casually admitting to obstruction of justice on Twitter, saying he only did it to “fight back.”
“I (we) are… doing things that nobody thought possible, despite the never ending and corrupt Russia Investigation, which takes tremendous time and focus,” Trump tweeted. “No Collusion or Obstruction (other than I fight back), so now they do the Unthinkable, and RAID a lawyers office for information! BAD!”
….doing things that nobody thought possible, despite the never ending and corrupt Russia Investigation, which takes tremendous time and focus. No Collusion or Obstruction (other than I fight back), so now they do the Unthinkable, and RAID a lawyers office for information! BAD!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2018
But there is no “fighting back” exception to obstruction of justice charges, which were part of the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.