The Corner

Politics & Policy

What Trump Really Told Lester Holt

One of the counts against Trump that we hear over and over is that he admitted in his Lester Holt interview that he fired Comey because of Russia. It is almost always  implied, and often explicitly stated, that Trump meant that he cashiered the FBI director to halt the Russia investigation. But this is not what Trump said, and his meaning became clearer this week with Comey’s testimony. Trump told Holt: 

And in fact, when I decided to just do it, 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.

We now know that what Trump was saying here was quite literally true — the idea that he was under investigation for Russia was false, even though it was widely reported, i.e., “a made-up story.” Trump was expressing frustration that his own name hadn’t been lifted clear of the Russia “cloud.” Indeed, Comey’s own account strongly suggests that this frustration was the reason he was fired, not a generalized desire to shut down the Russia probe. (Trump told Lester Holt he was content for the Russia investigation to proceed, just as he told Comey at one point.) 

Andy has a piece on the homepage on Trump firing Comey over the misleading impression that he was being investigated that you definitely should read. I believe, despite how it has been misrepresented, the Holt interview adds to the evidence for this theory. 

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