James Comey infuriated President Trump with refusal to preview Senate testimony

WASHINGTON, May 10 (Reuters) - The anger behind Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday had been building for months, but a turning point came when Comey refused to preview for top Trump aides his planned testimony to a Senate panel, White House officials said.

Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had wanted a heads-up from Comey about what he would say at a May 3 hearing about his handling of an investigation into former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.

When Comey refused, Trump and his aides considered that an act of insubordination and it was one of the catalysts to Trump's decision this week to fire the FBI director, the officials said.

RELATED: Reaction to Trump's firing of James Comey

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Reaction to Trump's firing of James Comey
But does anyone seriously believe @realDonaldTrump fired the top person investigating his ties to Russia because he was unfair to Hillary?
Trump firing Comey shows how frightened the Admin is over Russia investigation
Gov. John Kasich statement on James Comey https://t.co/Wrwj6sGqnz
Removal of Director Comey only confirms need for select cmte to investigate #Russia's interference in 2016 election https://t.co/LfKlwSw6iQ
EVERYONE who cares about independence & rule of law in America should be "troubled by the timing and reasoning" of… https://t.co/NZY4qh3uiz
This is Nixonian. Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein must immediately appoint a special prosecutor to continue the Trump/Russia investigation.
Firing of Comey tainted by extraordinary conflict of interest. Independent prosecutor must be appointed to restore… https://t.co/lXBIJtTf18
First Pres Trump fired Sally Yates, then Preet Bharara. Now #Comey. Doesn't seem like an accident. We must have a special prosecutor.
If we don't get a special prosecutor, every American will rightfully suspect that the decision to fire #Comey was part of a cover-up.
We are in a full-fledged constitutional crisis.
Comey's fired, which means Trump must be one of the few people in DC that the FBI doesn't have something on.
My statement on James Comey https://t.co/NWBR8FGTCf
Elijah Cummings is calling for "immediate emergency hearings". https://t.co/iMsNmdPmHi
LEAHY: "This is nothing less than Nixonian." https://t.co/n4R4fWSgib
Sen. John McCain on Comey firing: "I regret that that took place. The president does have that authority, so I resp… https://t.co/pSEu3XXsj5
Statement on FBI Director Comey ➡ https://t.co/vB822Nw5OR
This should not be sugar coated. Firing Comey is up there in terms of the scariest things Trump has done.
I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination.
My staff and I are reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia. The second paragraph of… https://t.co/qcm1PiFkNG
Ds were against Comey before they were for him.
U.S. Senator Susan Collins’ Statement on Director Comey #mepolitics https://t.co/LHCcbPJMsb https://t.co/xNUeGvENlv
Firing Comey has the foul stench of an attempt to stop an ongoing investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
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"It gave the impression that he was no longer capable of carrying out his duties," one official said. Previews of congressional testimony to superiors are generally considered courteous.

Comey, who testified for four hours before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said it made him feel "mildly nauseous" that his decision to make public his reopening of a probe into Clinton's handling of classified information might have affected the outcome of the Nov. 8 presidential election. But he said he had no regrets and would make the same decision again.

Trump's sudden firing of Comey shocked Washington and plunged Trump deeper into a controversy over his campaign's alleged ties with Russia that has dogged the early days of his presidency.

Democrats accused the Republican president of firing Comey to try to undermine the FBI's probe into Russia's alleged efforts to meddle in the 2016 election and possible collusion with members of the Trump campaign, and demanded an independent investigation. Some of Trump's fellow Republicans called his dismissal of Comey troubling.

The Trump administration said on Tuesday Comey was fired because of his handling of the Clinton email probe.

Before he axed Comey, Trump had publicly expressed frustration with the FBI and congressional probes into the Russia matter. Moscow has denied meddling in the election and the Trump administration denies allegations of collusion with Russia.

A former Trump adviser said Trump was also angry because Comey had never offered a public exoneration of Trump in the FBI probe into contacts between the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Sergei Kislyak, and Trump campaign advisers last year.

SEE ALSO: Rep. Maxine Waters' confusing interview on James Comey's firing throws MSNBC host for a loop

According to this former adviser, Comey's Senate testimony on the Clinton emails likely reinforced in Trump's mind that "Comey was against him."

"He regretted what he did to Hillary but not what he did to Trump," the former Trump adviser said of Comey.

Clinton has said that the Comey decision to announce the renewed inquiry days before the election was a likely factor in her loss to Trump.

Aides said Trump moved quickly after receiving a recommendation on Monday to terminate Comey from Rosenstein, who began reviewing the situation at the FBI shortly after taking office two weeks ago.

Trump's move was so sudden that his White House staff, accustomed to his impromptu style, was caught off guard. Stunned aides scrambled to put together a plan to explain what happened.

RELATED: James Comey through the years

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James Comey through the years
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James Comey through the years
FBI Director James Comey waits before testifying at a House Intelligence Committee hearing into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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U.S. President Barack Obama announces James Comey (L), a Republican who served in the Bush Justice Department, as his choice to replace Robert Mueller as the next FBI director, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, June 21, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES: US Deputy Attorney General James Comey (L) and FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Gary Bald take questions 05 August, 2004, at the Justice Department in Washington, DC, after announcing that two men from Albany, New York, were arrested charging each with concealing material support for terrorism and participating in a money laundering conspiracy. Mosque Imam Yassin Aref, 34, and mosque founder Mohammed Hoosain, 49, were arrested following a raid on an Albany mosque late 04 August. Officials said the two men had agreed to launder money to help a presumed terrorist, actually an undercover FBI agent, buy a shoulder-fired missile. AFP PHOTO / TIM SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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The shadow of FBI Director James Comey is seen as he addresses the audience during the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) annual meeting at the State Department in Washington, DC on November 19, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
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FBI Director James Comey testifies to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on ?Russia?s intelligence activities" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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WASHINGTON - JULY 8: Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey (L) announces indictment of the former Enron CEO, Kenneth Lay, while FBI Director Robert Mueller listens July 8, 2004 in Washington DC. Lay was indicted on 11 counts, including securities and wire fraud and false and misleading statements surrounding the collapse of the energy giant. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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White House spokesman Sean Spicer ended up briefing reporters about the move in the dark on Tuesday night near a patch of bushes steps away from the West Wing.

Comey, who was in Los Angeles meeting with FBI employees on Tuesday and returned later to Washington, has made no public comment on his firing.

'FIG LEAF'

Many questions remained about what caused Trump to move so quickly.

Two former senior Justice Department officials said it made little sense to fire Comey while the Justice Department Inspector General was still doing a review of the FBI's handling of the Clinton email investigation.

"I take Rod (Rosenstein) at his word that be believed everything in that memo but he must know that it's going to be used as a fig leaf to fire Comey," one former official said.

SEE ALSO: Fired FBI Director Comey tells colleagues: 'It is done, and I will be fine'

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters it was her "understanding" Comey had been seeking more resources for his investigation into the tangled Russia controversy.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump had pondered dumping Comey as soon as he took office on Jan. 20, but decided to stick with him.

Trump shrugged off the political firestorm he created with Comey's dismissal as he met with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office on Wednesday.

Asked by reporters why he fired Comey, Trump said, "He wasn't doing a good job, very simply. He wasn't doing a good job."

RELATED: American FBI directors through the years

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American FBI directors through the years
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American FBI directors through the years
J. Edgar Hoover: 1924-1972
William Sessions: 1987-1993
James Comey: 2013-2017
Robert S. Mueller III: 2001-2013
William D. Ruckelshaus (Acting): April 1973 - July 1973
Clarence M. Kelley: 1973-1978
William H. Webster: 1978-1987
Louis J. Freeh: 1993-2001
William J. Burns: 1921-1924
Thomas J. Pickard (Acting): June 2001-September 2001
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