Trump Calls Comey 'a Showboat' in First Interview Since Firing Former FBI Director

Playing Trump Explains Decision to Fire FBI's Comey: 'He's a Showboat'

President Trump has given his first TV interview since his startling decision to fire FBI director James Comey.

Read: Sean Spicer in the Hot Seat as Trump Fumes Over Comey Backlash: Report

The president spoke to NBC News anchor Lester Holt in the White House Thursday about Comey’s firing.

“He is a showboat, he is a grandstander,” he said of the ousted former bureau boss. “The FBI has been in great turmoil — you know that, I know that, everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was virtual turmoil — less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.”

He was also asked about his letter firing Comey in which he wrote, “I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.”

"I had a dinner with him, he wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on," Trump said. "A dinner was arranged — I think he asked for the dinner. He said it once at dinner, and then he said it twice during phone calls."

That statement brought immediate reactions from Democrats,and pundits - and even Republicans - who said such questioning was a violation of political protocol and should never have happened.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, facing intense questions during a White House press briefing Thursday about Trump’s remarks, said there was no impropriety in the president asking if he was under a federal investigation.

'I don't see that as a conflict of interest and neither do the many legal scholars and others that have been commenting on it for the last hour,' Sanders said.

Asked if she and Vice President Mike Pence had been “kept in the dark,” she shot back,” Nobody was in the dark,” and accused journalists of unleashing “a false narrative.”

The president denied have any "collusion" with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, called the former agency director “one of the most ethical, upright, straightforward individuals I’ve had the opportunity to work with.

Read: Putin Comments on Comey Firing in Full Hockey Gear: 'We Have Nothing to Do With That'

"Sure there were FBI employees that disagreed with how he handled the Clinton email announcements," the senator said. "The lion's share of FBI employees respect the former director and it shows the professionalism that he brought to the role that he was in."

NBC’s Holt also asked Trump about any business ties he might have with Russian interests.

"I have no investments in Russia, none whatsoever," Trump told NBC News. "I don't have property in Russia. A lot of people thought I owned office buildings in Moscow. I don't have property in Russia, and I am ... in total compliance in every way." 

Trump was asked bu Holt if he was "angry with Mr. Comey because of his Russia investigation."

"I just want somebody that's competent," Trump replied. "I am a big fan of the FBI, I love the FBI."

In Senate testimony, Comey's temporary replacement, acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, directly contradicted the president's claim that Comey had lost the respect of FBI personnel.

Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” McCabe declared Thursday.

Watch: James Comey Laughed Off TV Reports He Had Been Fired, Believing It Was a Prank