Pence: Comey firing not about Russia investigation

The vice president insisted the move was in the country's best interests.

— -- Vice President Mike Pence pushed back on suggestions Wednesday that President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey was related to the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in last year's presidential election and potential ties to associates of Trump.

Pence, speaking to the press at the Capitol in his first public comments after the firing, insisted that Trump's decision was based solely on the best interests of the country and that he was acting upon the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Pence dismissed questions about the Russia probe by noting, as Trump did in his letter informing Comey of his termination, that the president is "not under investigation" himself.

"That is not what this is about," said Pence.

Trump has expressed his dissatisfaction with the existence of the investigation on numerous occasions, insisting that there is no connection to his campaign. The vice president reiterated that point Wednesday, referring, as Trump has, to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who testified that -- to his knowledge -- there was no evidence of collusion between Russia and the campaign.

"The president and I remain confident that the committees in the house and the senate that are looking into every aspect of issues that arise out of last year's election will be able to do their work and do it in an orderly way," said Pence. "The president himself was informed several times by the former director of the FBI that he himself is not under investigation."

Pence ignored a question as to whether the White House asked Sessions and Rosenstein to conduct a review of Comey. Instead, the vice president simply noted the bipartisan support for Rosenstein's confirmation by the Senate last month and lauded him as "a man of extraordinary Independence and integrity."

He added that Trump would choose a director to replace Comey that "will be able to lead that agency and all of the outstanding men and women to the FBI back to a place where that agency can enjoy the confidence of the American people."

The recommendation from Rosenstein specifically cited Comey's handling of information about the investigation into former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. During the campaign, Trump offered praise for Comey's disclosures on the probe -- widely interpreted as harmful to Clinton's candidacy.