Trump contradicts himself over Comey firing

WASHINGTON, April 18 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he did not fire James Comey "because of the phony Russia investigation," contradicting his 2017 statement that he ousted the FBI director last year over the probe.

Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017, as the law enforcement agency investigated alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between Moscow and Trump's campaign. The firing prompted the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to lead the inquiry and look at possible obstruction of justice.

Trump, who has denied collusion with Moscow, on Wednesday posted a tweet referring to "Slippery James Comey" and said he "was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation." Trump did not elaborate.

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Two days after dismissing Comey, Trump had explained why he did it in a televised interview with NBC News.

"In fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, 'You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story," he said. "It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won."

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The president's latest comments come as Comey embarks on a massive media tour to promote his book, "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership." The book chronicles Comey's brief service under Trump, who he has said is "morally unfit" to be president.

Russia has also denied interfering in the 2016 election. (Reporting by Susan Heavey Editing by Bill Trott)