Trump said firing ‘nut job’ Comey relieved ‘great pressure’ - report

Senior White House advisor is significant person of interest in Russia inquiry, story says

US president Donald Trump meets with Russian officials at the White House in Washington. Photograph: Russian Foreign Ministry via The New York Times

US president Donald Trump meets with Russian officials at the White House in Washington. Photograph: Russian Foreign Ministry via The New York Times

 

US president Donald Trump told Russian diplomats that firing the “nut job” FBI director had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to The New York Times.

The newspaper cited the White House’s official written account of the Oval Office meeting. It said one official had read quotations to the New York Times and another had confirmed the broad outlines of the discussion.

Friday’s report quotes Mr Trump calling ousted FBI director James Comey “crazy” and “a real nut job”.

It says the president then told Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador that he “faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off”. Mr Trump met the Russians on May 10th, the day after he fired Mr Comey.

In response to the story the White House said that Mr Comey’s “grandstanding” and “politicising” of the Russian inquiry hurt diplomatic efforts with Moscow.

Meanwhile the Washington Post reported on Friday that a senior White House adviser is a significant person of interest in the investigation of possible ties between Mr Trump’s election campaign and Russia. The newspaper cited people familiar with the matter.

The Post said its sources would not further identify the official, who was described as a person close to Mr Trump.

“As the president has stated before - a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement in response to the Post’s report.

Earlier on Friday Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended a memo he wrote criticising former Mr Comey , telling law makers on Capitol Hill that Mr Comey had “damaged public confidence in the Bureau and the Department.”

In a briefing to member of the House of Representatives a day after he briefed senators, Mr Rosenstein said that Mr Comey’ handling of Hillary Clinton’ email scandal had been criticized by officials from both political parties.

“Former Department of Justice officials from both political parties have criticized Director Comey’s decisions,” he said in an opening statement.

“It was not just an isolated mistake. The series of public statements about the email investigation, in my opinion departed from the proper role of the FBI Director and damaged public confidence in the Bureau and the Department.”

Mr Comey was fired by Mr Trump on May 9th . While Mr Trump has been strongly criticised for dismissing an official who was responsible for investigating links between his campaign team and Russia, the FBI director had previously been criticized by Democrats for his intervention in the Hillary Clinton email server scandal at a critical moment in the US presidential campaign. The former Secretary of State herself has blamed Mr Comey’s intervention for costing her the campaign.

“If the election had been on October 27th, I would be your president,” Clinton said earlier this month, referring to Mr Comey’s statement on October 28th that a fresh investigation involving emails sent to the disgraced former husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin had been opened.

Mr Rosenstein during his briefing failed to clarify whether his memo dated May 9th was informed by his knowledge that Mr Trump was preparing to dismiss Mr Comey, members of Congress who were at the briefing said .

First foreign visit

With the president departing on Friday afternoon for the first foreign visit of his presidency, focus was turning to the scope and nature of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the US election and links between the president’s election campaign team and the Kremlin.

Doubts have now been raised about the future of several Congressional inquiries into the Russian controversy given the establishment of an inquiry that will have the power to prosecute. Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that Mr Mueller’s appointment would probably “shut down” its inquiry.

“Certainly, I think Congress’s ability to investigate this process fully is going to be hampered,” said Senator Ron Johnson.

Meanwhile the New York Times reported that President Trump phoned FBI director James Comey weeks after he assumed office asking when the agency was going to publicise that Mr Trump was personally not under investigation.  Mr Comey is reported to have told Mr Trump that he needed to follow the proper procedures and not contact him directly.

Mr Trump embarks on his first foreign trip as leader at the end of the most tumultuous week of his presidency, following revelations that he shared classified information with the Russian foreign minister and allegations that he pressed former FBI director James Comey to drop an investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn.

-additional reporting Reuters/AP