President Donald Trump reportedly told Russian officials during their Oval Office visit that he fired “nut job” James Comey to take the “great pressure” off the Russian probe.
The New York Times reports:
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer essentially confirmed that the May 10 conversation took place, issuing a statement to the NYT claiming that Trump was under a great deal of pressure due to “grandstanding” Comey.
“By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia,” Spicer said. “The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”
Another White House official suggested to the NYT that Trump was using a negotiation tactic at the time he spoke the words to Russian official Sergey Lavrov during the Oval Office meeting that took place just one day after Comey was removed from his post.
The New York Times report was published on Friday afternoon, at about the same time as Trump and his family left for a lengthy overseas trip.
It also comes at the same time as WaPo broke the news that a current White House official is a significant person of interest in a criminal investigation probing coordination between Russia and Team Trump.