Trump himself had already contradicted that explanation, telling interviewers earlier that he had already chose to dismiss Comey.
"I hope you can let this go", Comey wrote, quoting Trump in the document, which CNN has not viewed but which was described by the sources.
While Trump issued stern denials, the focus of the political drama turned to Capitol Hill, where Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met with the full Senate in private to brief them on his decision to appoint Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel and take charge of the department's Russian Federation investigation. The White House cited a letter from Rosenstein to the president advocating for Comey's dismissal over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). If Trump does appoint someone with a political past, Senate Democrats are considering what leverage they have to stop it. "Zero", Trump said at a joint news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
"I believe it hurts our country terribly, because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country", Trump said.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the number-two Republican in the Senate and a member of its Intelligence committee, said after the briefing that he told Rosenstein he was anxious about the committees stepping on the FBI's toes.
In an attempt to quell the furor over Comey's ouster, the Justice Department this week hired former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the investigation.
"Mueller's in charge, completely in charge of this investigation", said Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of IL. Lawmakers will have to be "leery of crossing into Mr. Mueller's lane" by seeking information from people facing possible criminal liability, the senator said.
McCabe, an Federal Bureau of Investigation veteran, made headlines for congressional testimony last week that rejected White House claims that Comey had lost the support of rank-and-file agents. He said an announcement could come "soon" and that former Sen. "If I were Mr. Mueller, I would jealously guard the witness pool". "So one of the big losers in this decision is the public", Graham said.
The probe is now under the leadership of special counsel Robert Mueller, although it's unclear if the heightened activity is the result of Mueller taking the helm. "If I were the president I would focus on defending the nation".
"I just fired the head of the F.B.I".
Rosenstein was originally invited by the two Senate leaders, Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Democrat Chuck Schumer of NY, to explain Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey. Lawmakers of both parties have praised Muller's integrity and the decision to make him special counsel.
"I didn't hear anything classified" during the briefing, Graham said.
"I think it divides the country", he went on.
"That was a consistent statement of his throughout", Murphy said.
Trump also changed his story once again about the circumstances surrounding Comey's firing, returning again to the White House's original rationale that he based his decision on Rosenstein's recommendation.
The president's frustration has been building since he abruptly fired Comey.
"He thought he had gotten through and not been noticed or singled out and that he was going to get away without an individual interaction", Mr. Wittes said Mr. Comey told him.
Rosenstein briefed the Senate for 90 minutes Thursday, a meeting Democrats demanded after the release of his memo.