Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday praised President Donald Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey and insisted the decision wasn't due to the ongoing probe into alleged ties between Trump's campaign and Russia.
"As has been stated repeatedly and the President has been told, he's not under investigation," Pence told reporters on Capitol Hill. He added: "There is no evidence of collusion between our campaign and any Russian officials."
Comey asked the Justice Department for more resources for the agency's investigation into Russian meddling of the US election and ties to Donald Trump's presidential campaign, just the week before the President fired him.
Comey told the heads of the Senate intelligence committee that he went to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last week and pushed for more resources to be devoted to the Russia investigation, according to two sources familiar with the discussion.
Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Flores denies Comey asked Rosenstein for more resources. She called reporting to the contrary "100% false," and told reporters she spoke directly with Rosenstein about the reports.
The vice president is taking the lead on the Hill in hopes of helping to reshape the narrative surrounding Comey's exit, a White House official said. Pence spoke to the media "to take the steam" out of the controversy, the official added.
Shortly after Pence's remarks, Trump responded to the controversy for the first time in person, telling pool reporters in the Oval Office he fired Comey because "he wasn't doing a good job."
Pence repeatedly emphasized to reporters that Trump's decision was the right one and added that Comey's successor will restore the bureau's credibility.
"Let me be very clear that the President's decision to accept the recommendation of the deputy attorney general and the attorney general to remove Director Comey as the head of the FBI was based solely and exclusively on his commitment to the best interests of the American people and to ensuring that the FBI has the trust and confidence of the people this nation," Pence said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are interviewing potential interim FBI directors Wednesday, according to a Justice Department official.
In a memo to Sessions on Tuesday, Rosenstein outlined his case for why Comey made "serious mistakes" in his handling of Clinton's email investigation last year, but according to the Justice official, Comey's testimony to Congress last week sealed the deal.
Pence mentioned more than once that Trump's decision was at the recommendation of Rosenstein. A source with knowledge of discussions inside the White House told CNN's Dana Bash that the thinking was that because Democrats were saying precisely what Rosenstein said in a letter explaining the grounds for Comey's dismissal, there would be no backlash.
Comey also will no longer give scheduled testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to talkingpointsmemo.com.