Pressure mounts on Trump as Comey agrees to testify

Investigation into links with Russia intensifies as president arrives in Saudi Arabia

President Donald Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday (May 20), the first stop on his maiden international trip since taking office in January.

 

The FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation has moved into the White House, according to reports emerging as the president arrived in Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip, while former FBI director James Comey has agreed to testify before the Senate intelligence committee.

White House hopes that Donald Trump could leave allegations at home were crushed in a one-two punch of revelations that landed shortly after his departure.

A Washington Post report, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, said a senior Trump adviser is now considered a “person of interest” in the law enforcement investigation into whether Mr Trump’s campaign associates co-ordinated with Russia in an effort to sway the 2016 election.

And The New York Times reported the president had told Russian diplomats last week his firing of “nut job” Mr Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him. The White House has said the firing was unrelated to the FBI’s Russia investigation.

Late on Friday, the Senate intelligence committee announced that Mr Comey had agreed to testify at an open hearing at an undetermined date after Memorial Day.

Mr Comey will certainly be asked about encounters that precipitated his firing, including a January dinner in which, according to the former FBI director, Mr Trump asked for his loyalty. In the Oval Office weeks later, Mr Comey told associates, the president asked him to shut down an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Mr Comey is known to produce memos documenting especially sensitive or unsettling encounters, such as after the February meeting.

Inner circle

The new headlines were a fresh indication that Mr Trump would not be able to change the subject from what appears to be an intensifying investigation reaching toward the president and his inner circle.

The White House repeated its assertion that a “thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity”.

It did not deny the report that Mr Trump was critical of Mr Comey to the Russians the day after he fired him.

The Times reported Mr Trump noted the Russia investigation as he told Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak of his decision to fire Mr Comey.

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” the Times reported that Mr Trump said during the May 10th meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Mr Lavrov said on Saturday he had not discussed Mr Comey’s firing with Mr Trump, Interfax news agency reported.

“We did not touch this issue at all,” Interfax quoted Mr Lavrov as saying.

Saudi Arabia has said Mr Trump’s trip will conclude political and commercial agreements and will help bolster the joint fight against Islamist militants.

Saudi Arabia has been enthusiastic about Mr Trump’s presidency after seeing his predecessor Barack Obama as too soft on Iran and cool towards Washington’s bilateral relationship with Riyadh, a mainstay of the Middle East’s security balance.

Mr Trump will make stops next week in Israel, Belgium and Italy.

Agencies