In his first public comment since firing James Comey, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the FBI director "was not doing a good job."
Sitting next to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office, the president did not explain more about the manner and timing of Comey's ouster, which has sparked criticism across the political spectrum.
Comey reportedly found out that he had been fired Tuesday around the time the news broke on television.
Trump, who received recommendations to do so from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, wrote in a letter that he wants to "find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission."
White House officials are scrambling to justify the timing, insisting that Comey got fired because of his conduct in the probe into Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information last year.
They said it had nothing to do with the FBI's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, which Comey first revealed publicly in March and includes any possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Along with Kissinger, Trump also met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday.
Comey drew backlash on both sides of the political aisle during and after the 2016 election due to his handling of the Clinton probe and Russia investigation.
Clinton and some other Democrats blame Comey's late October announcement that the FBI found new emails potentially related to probe, in part, for her loss to Trump.
Democrats have decried the firing and increased their calls for a special prosecutor in the Russia investigation.
Most Republican lawmakers, though, have resisted those calls and said that the Senate Intelligence Committee's probe into Russian interference is adequate.
Trump previously praised Comey after he sent the October letter to Congress that shook up the presidential race.
On Tuesday night, The New York Times reported that the Department of Justice was told to come up with justification to fire Comey.
Multiple reports Wednesday also said that Comey had recently requested more funding for the Russia probe, which the Justice Department called "totally false."
In his letter to Comey released by the White House, Trump went out of his way to write that Comey informed him "on three separate occasions" that he is "not under investigation."