President Donald Trump said Tuesday that his decision to declassify documents related to the Justice Department’s Russia probe is “a great service to the country” and expressed regret that he had not fired former FBI Director James Comey earlier.
In an interview with the Hill, Trump said he believes that his crusade against the FBI, whose past leadership he has criticized as biased against him, will ultimately reveal corruption inside the bureau. Uncovering that corruption, the president said, could be one of the “crowning achievements” of his administration.
“I hope to be able put this up as one of my crowning achievements that I was able to … expose something that is truly a cancer in our country,” the president said in the interview.
“What we’ve done is a great service to the country, really,” Trump added.
The president’s comments came one day after he ordered the release of a tranche of Comey’s text messages and declassified 20 pages of a surveillance application that targeted former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here” — U.S. President Donald Trump
Allies of the president have suggested that the released information will show evidence of the president’s claims, that the ongoing Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller is a “hoax” and that a conspiracy existed inside the Justice Department to undercut Trump’s presidency.
Prior to Mueller’s appointment, the bureau’s Russia investigation was overseen by Comey, who was fired by Trump in May 2017. Trump told the Hill that he should have fired Comey “the day I won the primaries,” something he would not have had the authority to do.
“If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries,” the president said. “I should have fired him right after the convention, say I don’t want that guy.”
“Or at least fired him the first day on the job,” he added. “I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t want him there when I get there.”
Trump also ordered on Monday the release of senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr’s notes related to the Russia investigation. Ohr served as a key conduit between the Justice Department and Christopher Steele, a former British spy who compiled a dossier of incendiary but still-unverified information linking Trump to the Russian government. Steele’s work was funded in part by the Democratic National Committee and the presidential campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton. Ohr’s contact with Steele continued after the FBI terminated its relationship with the former British spy.
The president has grown increasingly critical of Ohr over the past couple of months, questioning why he still works at the Justice Department.
Trump, during the interview with the Hill, criticized leaks that he said emanated from the FBI before he was inaugurated, labeling it a type of “insurance policy” to create a false narrative to hurt his presidency if Trump won.
“What we have now is an insurance policy,” the president said. “But it has been totally discredited, even Democrats agree that it has been discredited. They are not going to admit to it, but it has been totally discredited.”