Nation

A strange Oval Office meeting

President Trump met with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, left, and their ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak.

Russian Foreign Ministry via The New York Times

President Trump met with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, left, and their ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak.

Welcome to Trump Today, a one-stop entry point for the latest news on the 45th president of the United States.

Afternoon update

Advertisement

President Donald J. Trump blasted former FBI Director James Comey as a “showboat” and a “grandstander.” Trump also told Lester Holt of NBC News that he planned to fire Comey regardless of the recommendations he received from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. A Trump spokeswoman said he had been thinking about the firing “for months.”

White House officials had previously said that Trump made his decision based on the recommendations. Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said at Thursday’s media briefing that the recommendations “further solidified the decision” Trump had already made.

Get Ground Game in your inbox:
Daily updates and analysis on national politics from James Pindell.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

The original explanation for the firing this week, laid out in a memo by Rosenstein, was that Comey had mishandled the conclusion of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. Now reports are emerging that Trump had been angry with Comey over a number of issues, including Comey’s pursuit of the investigation into Trump campaign contacts with Russia and his seeming disinterest in pursuing media leaks.

The White House has justified Comey’s ouster by saying the director had lost the confidence of the FBI rank and file. But acting FBI director Andrew McCabe told a congressional committee that he held Comey in the “absolute highest regard” and the “vast majority of FBI employees enjoyed a deep, positive connection to the director.” Sanders said at the briefing she had heard from “countless” FBI workers supporting Trump’s decision, but she declined to provide a specific number.

Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in on the Comey firing, telling CBS News, “We have nothing to do with it.”

Advertisement

The morning headlines

A sense of uncertainty pervaded Washington as the White House struggled to explain Trump’s sudden firing of Comey, who appeared to have been stepping up his probe of Trump campaign contacts with Russia, the Globe’s Matt Viser reports.

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein was the man whom Comey recently asked for more funds for the Trump-Russia investigation. He also wrote the memo that Trump officials originally used to justify Comey’s firing. The Washington Post reports that he threatened to resign after being portrayed as the prime mover in the dismissal. The Globe’s Annie Linskey took a closer look at who Rosenstein is.

Senate Republicans questioned the timing of the firing, but they sought to squash demands for a special counsel to independently review Trump-Russia ties, the Globe’s Astead W. Herndon reports.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner and Chairman Richard Burr.

Congressional committees have also been investigating Trump-Russia ties, along with the FBI. The Senate Intelligence Committee, as part of its probe, has subpoenaed documents from Trump’s ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn. The committee said it was acting after Flynn refused to cooperate with a late April request for the documents.

Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was strangely timed and its attendees included Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador whose contacts with several Trump associates have been eyed with suspicion. Lavrov’s joking about Comey’s firing didn’t help. People also raised security concerns because a photographer for a Russian state-owned news agency took pictures.

Even before the furor over the firing of Comey, the Republican president’s popularity was dropping. A new poll finds that his disapproval numbers have risen to 58 percent, while his approval numbers have dropped to 36 percent.

Today’s schedule

After several days of keeping a lower profile, Trump had no events at all on his public schedule for Thursday.

Sanders briefed the media.

What’s he been tweeting?

Trump was quiet on Twitter into Thursday afternoon.

On Wednesday night, after a busy day of tweeting, he posted one final tweet that included a mashup of clips of Democrats and others criticizing Comey. Many Democrats were outraged with Comey’s handling of the conclusion of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. But in recent months that issue had receded into the background, which is why it was a surprise for Trump’s team to present it as the rationale for firing Comey.

More headlines

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price defended the West Virginia Capitol police after they arrested a journalist for “aggressively” asking him questions at the capitol building, the Globe’s Christina Prignano reports.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a billionaire proponent of charter schools, was booed when she gave the keynote address at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black school in Florida.

The briefing

Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sanders was grilled three days in a row at media briefings.

Here’s video of her performance Wednesday when she was questioned about the firing of James Comey, despite a plea for them to be nice to her on her daughter’s 5th birthday. Her account of the firing was one of several versions that has emerged from the White House. The Q and A begins at about 3:30 on the tape.

Comic relief

The late-night shows were caught a little off guard by the firing of Comey late Tuesday afternoon. But they made a comeback Wednesday night. Here’s Seth Meyers on “Late Night” taking “A Closer Look.”

Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show” also had a lively take on Comey’s firing.

Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.