President Trump on Thursday falsely suggested NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt had manipulated his comments about former FBI Director James Comey during an interview in May this year, shortly after Comey’s dismissal.
“What’s going on at @CNN is happening, to different degrees, at other networks – with @NBCNews being the worst,” Trump tweeted, citing a tweet he had posted minutes earlier, in which he criticized CNN’s news coverage as “extreme[ly] biased.”
Referring to rumors of NBC News Chairman Andy Lack’s impending departure, over his handling of the Matt Lauer sexual harassment controversy and a slew of other scandals, Trump added, “The good news is that Andy Lack(y) is about to be fired(?) for incompetence, and much worse. When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly!”
What’s going on at @CNN is happening, to different degrees, at other networks – with @NBCNews being the worst. The good news is that Andy Lack(y) is about to be fired(?) for incompetence, and much worse. When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2018
As many have since noted, there is no evidence to suggest Holt or NBC News in any way “fudged” the tape of that interview, which took place on May 11, 2017. Instead, the president appeared to be sowing skepticism about the details surrounding Comey’s dismissal, in an attempt to further undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference and allegations of presidential obstruction.
To put things into context: On May 9, 2017, two full days before the NBC Nightly News interview aired, the president fired Comey, supposedly on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. In a letter sent to Comey’s D.C. office, Trump claimed the bureau had lost faith in Comey due to his mishandling of the Clinton email probe months earlier.
During the NBC interview days later, however, Trump suddenly changed course, suggesting he had fired Comey over “this Russia thing.”
“In fact, when I decided to [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’ve won,'” he said.
In that same interview, Trump also suggested he was planning to fire Comey long before Sessions and Rosenstein gave him their recommendation.
“I was going to fire Comey — my decision. There is no good time to do it, by the way,” he said. “I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.”
The threads of Comey’s initial investigation were later picked up by Mueller, who was appointed to lead the Russia probe later that month. Mueller subsequently expanded the investigation to include allegations of obstruction against Trump and his associates, specifically over Trump’s admission that he had dismissed Comey over the “Russia thing.”
Since then, Trump has shifted his story multiple times, claiming in May this year that he “never fired James Comey because of Russia.”
“Not that it matters but I never fired James Comey because of Russia!” he tweeted. “The Corrupt Mainstream Media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true!”
Trump’s suggestion that Holt somehow deceptively edited his comments about Comey in May 2017 is the president’s latest attempt to derail the Mueller probe and throw the media’s objectivity into question — specifically any outlet that tries to highlight his ever-shifting claims about the Russia investigation more broadly.
“I just cannot state strongly enough how totally dishonest much of the Media is,” he tweeted Thursday morning. “Truth doesn’t matter to them, they only have their hatred & agenda.”