- Trump sharply criticized Comey in the interview
- "I was going to fire Comey," Trump said
"I was going to fire Comey," Trump told NBC News' Lester Holt in an interview. "Regardless of the recommendation I was going to fire Comey."
The White House initially said Rosenstein's memorandum to Attorney General Jeff Sessions prompted Trump to fire Comey, but Trump contradicted that account, saying he had already planned to do so and requested a memo to back up his decision.
Trump's firing of Comey sent a wave of criticism the White House's way, with Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill questioning the timing of the firing, which came as the FBI's investigation into potential coordination between Trump campaign associates and Russia has heated up.
The White House initially pushed back on criticism of the firing by hanging Trump's decision on the recommendation of Rosenstein, who was confirmed two weeks earlier on a broad bipartisan basis.
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday sought to align the White House's version of events with Trump's, clearing up the White House's timeline by arguing the Rosenstein memo was the "final straw that pushed him" to fire Comey.
Sanders dodged questions about why even Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that Trump decided to fire Comey because of Rosenstein's memo.
"Nobody was in the dark," she said. "Why are we arguing about the semantics?"
Trump also expanded on his claim that Comey told him three times that he was not under investigation, telling NBC that Comey told him "you are not under investigation" during a dinner the two had to discuss Comey's future at the helm of the FBI.