President Donald Trump on Thursday ran into resistance for calling ousted FBI chief James Comey a “showboat,” an attack that was swiftly contradicted by top U.S. senators and the acting FBI leader, who pledged that an investigation into possible Trump campaign ties to Russia would proceed with vigor.
In his first interview since firing Comey on Tuesday, Trump appeared to try to underscore that Comey’s dismissal was about his performance at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and not about the Russia probe.
Trump faces accusations from Democrats that he fired Comey to hinder the FBI investigation into U.S. intelligence agency allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election to benefit Trump. The probe has hung over Trump’s presidency since he took office in January and threatens to overwhelm his policy priorities.
“He’s a showboat. He’s a grandstander,” Trump told NBC News. “The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that.”
Trump’s characterization was odds with that of the top Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
At a hearing on Thursday, the Republican chairman of the panel, Richard Burr, and the top Democrat, Mark Warner, praised Comey. Warner said he was offended at Trump’s remarks.
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, testifying in place of Comey, contradicted Trump’s appraisal of turmoil at the FBI, saying that Comey had “broad support” from the rank and file “and still does to this day.”
A White House spokeswoman on Thursday morning had said that Trump was expected to soon visit FBI headquarters, but MSNBC later reported that plan had been thrown out after agency officials told the White House that Trump would not be greeted warmly following his firing of Comey.
Several candidates are being considered to replace Comey, a senior White House official said, including Mike Rogers, a former Republican representative; Trey Gowdy, a Republican representative and former federal prosecutor; Alice Fisher, assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration; and Ray Kelly, former commissioner of the New York Police Department.
The nominee must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.