WASHINGTON (AP) — In the days before his firing by President Donald Trump, FBI Director James Comey told U.S. lawmakers he had asked the Justice Department for more resources to pursue the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election, three U.S. officials said Wednesday.
The officials said Comey met last week with Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, to make the request. Comey then alerted lawmakers with ties to the concurrent congressional investigations into Russia’s meddling, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity in order to disclose the private conversations.
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said it was false that Comey had asked Rosenstein for money for the Russia investigation.
The revelations raise new questions about what prompted Trump’s decision to fire Comey. The White House has cited a memo from Rosenstein, in which he criticizes Comey’s handling of last year’s investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s email practices
Rosenstein’s memo makes no mention of the FBI’s Russia investigation, which is probing both Russia’s hacking of Democratic groups last year and whether Trump campaign associates had ties to Moscow’s election interference.
Trump defended his decision Wednesday, asserting in a flurry of tweets that both Democrats and Republicans “will be thanking me” for his action. He did not mention any effect the dismissal might have on the FBI and congressional investigations into contacts between his 2016 election campaign and Russia.
“He wasn’t doing a good job. Very simply. He was not doing a good job,” Trump said in brief remarks to reporters in the Oval Office, where he was joined by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
The abrupt firing of Comey threw into question the future of the FBI’s investigation and immediately raised suspicions of an underhanded effort to stymie a probe that has shadowed the administration from the outset. Trump has ridiculed the investigations as “a hoax” and denied any campaign involvement with the Russians.
Democrats compared Comey’s ouster to President Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” during the Watergate investigation and renewed calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Ironically, Kissinger, who was meeting with Trump, was Nixon’s secretary of state in 1973, just moved over from being Nixon’s national security adviser.
Earlier Wednesday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rosenstein, to appear before the Senate to answer questions about the circumstances surrounding Trump’s action.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brushed aside calls for a special prosecutor, saying a new investigation into Russian meddling would only “impede the current work being done.” He noted that Democrats had repeatedly criticized Comey in the past and some had called for his removal.
Trump made a similar case on Twitter, saying Comey had “lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington,” adding: “When things calm down, they will be thanking me!”