As President Donald Trump departs the country his first foreign visit since taking office, the New York Times broke a story that he a told Russian officials in the Oval Office that ex-FBI Director James B. Comey was a “nut job” whose firing eased “great pressure.”
At the same time, The Washington Post reported that investigators consider a current senior White House adviser a “significant person of interest,” in the federal probe of possible ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russia.
According to the New York Times. the day after he abruptly fired Comey, Trump told Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and its ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, that Comey was a “nut job” and that firing him relieved “great pressure.”
The FBI is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, potential collusion among foreign spies with campaign officials, and efforts to cover up crimes related to the scandal.
The Times cited a summary of the meeting and given a clear opportunity, White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not dispute the report. Instead, the White House spokesperson said in a statement that Comey “created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.”
“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump reportedly said. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
That probe into possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin prompted the Justice Department to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel in the investigation.
Trump admitted that he would have fired Comey “regardless” of what the Justice Department recommended and said that he was thinking of the “Russia thing” when he made that decision.
“As the President stated before — a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer, insisting the probe would find no collusion involving Trump’s campaign.
Trump administration officials who have acknowledged contacts with Russian officials include Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recently told senators that the FBI’s Russia probe is both a criminal and counterintelligence investigation.
With trouble brewing at home, observers are watching to see how Trump’s “America First” political rhetoric impacts his journey to Saudi Arabia, Israel and global summits in Italy and Belgium.
As CNN’s Stephen Collinson put it bluntly: “Given his current political fortunes, if President Donald Trump’s crucial first foreign trip passes off without a disaster, it will be considered a success.”
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!