President Donald Trump on Thursday acknowledged for the first time that the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in last year's election was on his mind when he dismissed the man overseeing the probe.
Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, setting off a wave of backlash that has included Democratic calls for a special prosecutor.
Responding to a question from NBC News' Lester Holt on Thursday about the firing of Comey, Trump responded:
"Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey...Knowing, there was no good time to do it. And 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, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.
"And the reason they should have won it is the electoral college is almost impossible for a Republican to win. Very hard. Because you start off at such a disadvantage. So everybody was thinking, they should have won the election. This was an excuse for having lost an election."
The "made up story" portion of the answer drew attention on social media, including from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, (D., Ill).