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Trump Asserts He Did Not Fire FBI Chief Over Russia Probe

U.S. President Donald Trump (left) and former FBI Director James Comey have traded barbs in recent weeks.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said that he did not fire James Comey as FBI director in 2017 over the agency's probe into alleged Russian meddling in the election that put him in office.

Comey "was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation," Trump said on Twitter on April 18.

The remark seemed to contradict a comment Trump made about his motives two days after he dismissed Comey in May 2017, as the FBI was investigating Moscow's alleged meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.

"In fact when I decided to just do it [fire Comey], I said to myself, I said, 'You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,'" he said at the time. "It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won."

Trump's dismissal of Comey led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to lead the Justice Department investigation and to look into whether obstruction of justice took place.

Trump has repeatedly denied there was any collusion between his associates and Russia and did so again in the tweet.

It came amid a public exchange of criticism between Trump and Comey, who is promoting a book he has written about his brief service under Trump and on April 15 said he believed Trump is "morally unfit" to be president.

In the tweet on April 18, Trump referred to Comey as "slippery" and called him "the worst FBI director in history."

U.S. intelligence agencies said in January 2017 that they determined that Russia conducted an "influence campaign" aimed at interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election with aims including undermining faith in U.S. democracy, denigrating Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton, and helping Trump.

Russia denies it interfered, despite substantial evidence.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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