WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump declared Thursday that he didn’t fire FBI Director James Comey over the Russia investigation, despite previously citing that as the reason. His lawyer, meanwhile, blasted federal investigators as “a lynching mob” the Trump team will “knock the heck out of” in the end.

The president has said at least twice that Comey’s firing in May 2017 was related to the FBI’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign associates coordinated with Russia to try to sway the 2016 election. And his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told Fox News earlier this month that Trump fired Comey because the FBI director wouldn’t publicly state he “wasn’t a target” of the Russia investigation.

Trump’s attempt to revise his public statements on Comey’s firing came as Giuliani drew criticism for comparing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to a “lynching mob.” And the Justice Department released a report revealing that the special counsel’s Russia probe has cost at least $16  million so far.

Trump tweeted Thursday: “Not that it matters but I never fired James Comey because of Russia! The Corrupt Mainstream Media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true!”

Comey’s firing led to the appointment of Mueller as the Justice Department’s special counsel probing Russian meddling in the election as well as possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. The firing is now under investigation by Mueller for possible obstruction of justice.

On Wednesday night, Giuliani said on Fox News’ Hannity that the investigation “never should have taken place in the first place” and claimed there were ethical issues within the Justice Department.

“So, you got a group there, a lynching mob, so let them do their job and, boy, we’re ready to knock the heck out of you with our report, which will be authoritative,” Giuliani said. “It will be backed up. It will be backed up with law and facts. And we’ll let the American people decide this.” It was not clear what report Giuliani was referring to.

When it first announced Comey’s firing, the White House cited his handling of the investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

A few days after Comey was dismissed, Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he fired Comey.

Ex-FBI official’s memo

A person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press on Wednesday that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe drafted a memo on circumstances leading up to Comey’s firing.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a secret document turned over to Mueller.

The memo concerns a conversation McCabe had with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who played an important role, having written a memo faulting Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation that the White House held up as justification for firing Comey.

According to McCabe’s memo, Rosenstein indicated to him that he was initially asked to reference the Russia probe in his own memo on Comey. But the final version didn’t include Russia, focusing instead on Clinton.