WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) – President Trump said Thursday he planned to fire FBI Director James Comey even before meeting with top-ranking Justice Department officials and soliciting their recommendations on his performance.

"I was going to fire regardless of recommendation," Trump told NBC News.

The White House has maintained that Comey was fired based on the recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The Justice Department's leadership excoriated Comey's handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, in particular, his unusual decision to hold a press conference in July announcing he would not charge the Democratic candidate – only to later publicly reopen the probe just 11 days before the November election.

Trump and his aides are scrambling to get past the furor over his dismissal of the FBI director who headed up an investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russians seeking to influence the 2016 election.