The President told Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that pressure had been “taken off” because he fired FBI Director James Comey, the New York Times reported Friday.
President Trump reportedly told his guests “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nutjob.”
President Trump made the candid admission to Russian officials in the Oval Office on May 10, that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.
“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.”
An admission of events that reinforces the notion that Mr. Trump dismissed him primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives. Mr. Trump said as much in one televised interview, but the White House has offered changing justifications for the firing.
American press were not allowed into the Oval Office meeting Trump held with Russia’s top diplomats last Wednesday, the day after the sudden firing of Comey shook Washington D.C.
Far from relieving pressure, that firing, and Trump’s reported request that Comey stop an investigation in disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, ratcheted up calls for an independent investigation into the President’s potential links to Russia.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed earlier this week as special counsel to look into alleged Moscow meddling in the 2016 election, as well as potential collusion with Trump.
President Donald Trump on a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Jan. 28, 2017 from the oval office.
Standing center, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus,and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and Vice President Mike Pence [sitting] right
Trump and his team had originally denied that the Russia investigation had anything to do with Comey’s firing, saying it was based on his handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe.
The White House doubled down on Trump’s statements to Lavrov in the Times report, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.”
The White House document that contained Mr. Trump’s comments was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and has been circulated as the official account of the meeting. One official read quotations to The Times, and a second official confirmed the broad outlines of the discussion.
The Whitehouse contended in a statement, that Mr. Comey had put unnecessary pressure on the president’s ability to conduct diplomacy with Russia on matters such as Syria, Ukraine and the Islamic State:
“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.”
At the center: Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Several of the controversial contacts involved meetings with the ambassador
Releasing the administration’s explanation, Whitehouse Press Secretary Sean Spicer added that President Trump in his talk with Russian diplomats always emphasized the benefits of making deals with the U.S.’s former Cold War foe on crises such as the Syrian civil war, ISIS and eastern Ukraine.
“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,” he said.
Former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III, was appointed Special Counsel to oversee the Russia link enquiry byDeputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, earlier in the week
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who on Wednesday appointed Mueller to lead a new iteration of that investigation, reportedly said that a conversation where Trump asked Comey to back off an investigation into disgraced National Security Advisor Michael Flynn moved the probe into new directions.
Rosenstein said in testimony to the Congress this week that investigators are now looking into the possibility of a cover-up by the White House, unidentified lawmakers told McClatchy Friday.
The Washington Post reported Friday that an unidentified current White House official has been identified as a “person of interest” by the FBI.
For some pundits the “nutjob” comments amounted to “pretty clear evidence” that Trump’s “motive in firing Comey was to obstruct justice.”
“This is blatant,” said Richard Painter,former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. “It’s essentially an admission,” Painter reportedly said.
“The ‘great pressure’ taken off thing? He’s saying he fired Comey in order to literally take pressure off himself with the Russia investigation,” Painter said.
Others have previously speculated that Trump telling Comey to stop the Flynn probe could also be obstruction of justice, where a perpetrator “influences, obstructs or impedes” official federal proceedings such as court cases or an FBI investigation.
However, Painter believes that despite what appears to be a “pretty clear indication that the firing was intended to literally take pressure off the President,” prosecutors would need to build a larger case not built off of one comment.
The “nutjob” remarks are not the first thing Trump said during his Lavrov meeting that has gained widespread attention.
He also divulged classified information about the fight against ISIS from an ally, later revealed to be Israel, that the U.S. had not shared with other close partners, according to a Washington Post report from earlier this week.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that all of Trump’s information sharing at the meeting was appropriate and “nothing that you would not know from open-source reporting.”
Gallery of acknowledged contact list
Lightening rod: Former national Sec Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn. Forced to resign sensitive post in the wake of cpmpromisng revealations
Former campaign manager, Paul Menafort. Had to step down in the thick of the campaigns after his ties to Russia tinged lobbying work was revealed
President Trump’s Adviser – son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Did he reveal all forign contacts during campaign and transition?
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recused himself from the Russia-linked investigation
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
In a related development the Washington Post is reporting that the FBI probe into possible collusion between President Trump’s campaign team and Russia has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest.
This ia a major development that in many ways puts the investigation ever closer to the President himself. The senior adviser under scrutiny is reportedly close to the President, though yet to be identified
However, the sources emphasized that investigators remain keenly interested in people who previously wielded influence in the Trump campaign and administration but are no longer part of it, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Those previously flagged for foreign contact during the campaigns or the transition period include retired Gen. Michael Flynn who resigned from his post as National Security Adviser in February after disclosures that he had lied to administration officials about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.Other current administration officials who have acknowledged contacts with Russian officials include President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.