45 After Dark: The ‘Showboat’ ‘Grand-stander’ edition

Two days later, the firing of FBI Director James Comey is a swirl of conflicting information.

President Donald Trump, speaking an interview with NBC News, offered his most extensive thoughts, saying he fired Comey because “he’s a showboat, he’s a grand-stander, the FBI has been in turmoil.”

In the same interview, Trump contradicted claims from Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials that the decision to fire Comey came only on the recommendation of the Justice Department: “I was gonna fire regardless of recommendation. Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey.”

The White House line, toed by Pence and other officials, had been that the dismissal came only after the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, POLITICO’s Matthew Nussbaum, Josh Dawsey and Tara Palmeri report. For Pence in particular, it’s at least the second time he’s “delivered the White House line, in the face of growing contradictory evidence, on a charged topic related to Russia’s possible connections to the Trump campaign.”

Rosenstein, meanwhile, was invited to address the entire Senate to discuss the run up to Comey’s dismissal. He also met with the leaders of the Senate intelligence panel.

For their part, White House officials argued that Comey had lost credibility with FBI rank-and-file. Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was filling in (or perhaps trying out) for press secretary Sean Spicer, said, “I’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president’s decision.”

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe dismissed that — testifying at a Senate hearing that Comey “enjoyed broad support” at the FBI. And FBI agent groups also said the idea that unrest in the FBI was a rationale for dismissing was outrageous: “His support within the rank and file of the FBI is overwhelming,” said Thomas O’Connor, a working FBI special agent who is president of the FBI Agents Association.

Elsewhere in Trump’s orbit:

AYOTTE TO TALK ABOUT: Former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican who helped steer Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation, is one of the candidates he’s considering to lead the FBI.

‘LOYAL’ OPPOSITION: The New York Times reports that James Comey told associates after a dinner with Trump that Trump asked for his “loyalty” and that Comey only promised “honesty.”

NBD: Trump said that it took 18 days to fire former national security adviser Michael Flynn in part because worries he might be blackmailed by Russia “did not seem like an emergency.”

VOTING COMMISSION: Trump created a commission that will look into voting integrity and voter fraud. (The Associated Press)

HOT ROD: Rosenstein faced increasing pressure today to explain his role and the Justice Department’s role in the firing of Comey.

LIGHT TOUCH: The Senate confirmed Robert Lighthizer as the U.S. trade representative.

KEEP AN ION THIS SPACE: Europe and airlines are waiting on word about a new laptop ban that would affect travelers coming to the U.S. from Europe.

CYBER REVIEW: Trump signed a long-awaited executive order calling for a review of U.S. cyber security procedures, including a hacking defense review.

And there you have it. You’re caught up on the Trump administration. TGIT.

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