A poll released on May 18 showed that nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe that it was at least somewhat likely President Donald Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey as a way to slow down the FBI investigation into both possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and possible ties between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.
The White House initially rationalized Comey's May 9 firing by explaining that the former FBI director had mishandled the investigation into a private email server Hillary Clinton previously used while she served as secretary of state.
The Monmouth University Polling Institute recorded 20 percent of respondents who believed the original reason for firing the former FBI director.
The numbers stand concurrently with a presidential approval rating of 39 percent.
"Trump has been losing support in the places that matter most," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
On May 17, the Justice Department designated former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel for the investigation into possible connections between Russia and the Trump campaign, according to The New York Times.
Trump denounced the investigation, as well as alleged transgressions by the Clinton campaign.
"With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!" read a tweet by Trump.
"This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!" Trump said, according to Reuters.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly recommended that Comey be fired, according to USA Today.
"[Rosenstein] made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it," said Trump on May 11.
"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.'"
Comey on March 20 announced to Congress that the FBI was opening an investigation into possible ties between the Russia and the Trump campaign, and was asked about whether the FBI was investigating Trump himself.
In a meeting with Congress on May 3, Comey declined to explain definitively whether or not the president was under investigation by the FBI for his alleged ties with Russia.
"I don't -- I don't want people to over interpret this answer, I'm not going to comment on anyone in particular, because that puts me down a slope of -- because if I say no to that then I have to answer succeeding questions," Comey told Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
"So what we've done is brief the chair and ranking on who the U.S. persons are that we've opened investigations on. And that's -- that's as far as we’re going to go, at this point."