Trump's shifting reason for firing Comey could cost him with Hill leaders

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Trump's advisers have repeatedly tried to downplay the Russia-election matter, with Sanders saying Wednesday the FBI was "doing a whole lot more than the Russian Federation investigation".

"As I've said for the third time, I have nothing more to add on that", Spicer said.

In an interview with Jeanine Pirro on Fox News, Trump declined to comment on whether he has listening devices in the White House.

The FBI has never had a female director. The only glimpse of the towering former director has been paparazzi shots taken through his back fence in McLean, Va.

Around the time Comey's firing became public on Tuesday, Trump told lawmakers he made his decision after reading a memo in which Rosenstein criticized the director's handling of the Clinton investigation.

Comey has not confirmed Trump's account.

"He had mentioned that he had been invited to the White House to have dinner with the president and that he was uneasy with that because of compromising even the optics, the appearance of independence, not only of him but of the FBI", Clapper told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) did not receive a heads-up call from Trump, but pulled the president aside to ask about Comey during a visit to the White House on Wednesday to discuss tax reform. "Rosenstein contacted the president and said, 'Long-term, we've got to resolve this, ' and they did".

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"I don't think it's inappropriate", Trump said.

"The effect has been is to lionize Comey and put the president in the hard position of being defensive", Madden said.

Among those also expected were acting Federal Bureau of Investigation director Andrew McCabe, Michael J. Garcia, an associate judge on New York's highest court, and GOP Sen.

The president has otherwise stayed out of the public eye since Tuesday, when he sent shockwaves around the world by removing the head of the agency that is investigating Trump's links to the Kremlin. Comey instead told Trump he could count on his honesty, the Times said.

Trump and Comey's relationship was strained early on, in part because of the president's explosive and unsubstantiated claims that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.

In the termination letter to Comey, Trump thanked him for telling the president "three times" that he personally is not under investigation for collusion with Russian Federation during his 2016 campaign.

Some say the dismissal was likely inevitable, given the inherent tension between Comey's independent streak and a president who values loyalty above all else. "The culture of law enforcement and the celebrity culture that the president comes out of are very different".

Even before Trump's provocative tweet, the White House was scrambling to clarify why Comey was sacked. It has always been bureau practice for directors to stay out of the limelight, but Comey is now a household name.

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