Former President Donald Trump said his firing of former FBI Director James Comey was critical to his surviving four years in the White House.
“If I didn’t fire Comey, they were looking to take down the president of the United States,” Trump told Fox News host Mark Levin during an interview that aired Sunday.
Trump fired Comey in May 2017, just four months after taking office amid an investigation into links between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Trump appeared on the program to promote a new book of photos from his time in the White House. But the interview meandered between the former president’s relationship with deceased conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh and several of Trump’s grievances.
“A lot of people tell me, ‘how you survived is the most incredible thing,’” Trump said. “I fired Comey. Had I not fired Comey you might not be talking to me right now about a beautiful book of four years at the White House.”
The memo from the Department of Justice about Comey’s firing focused on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, revealed just before Election Day in 2016. But Trump was focused on the Russia investigation, according to the Mueller report.
After firing Comey, Trump appeared on CNN to discuss the decision with Lester Holt. Trump told Holt he planned to fire Comey anyway, even if the Department of Justice didn’t recommend it.
“In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,” he said during the May 2017 interview. “It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”
This week, Trump said that decision was critical to his completing his term.
“I don’t think I could have survived if I didn’t fire him because it was like a hornet’s nest,” he told Levin. “When I fired him, they all went crazy.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.