Trump told Russians he fired ‘nut job’ ex-FBI chief to ease pressure of Russia probe


NEW YORK, May 20 (APP): US President Donald Trump told Russian diplomats during an Oval Office meeting last week that firing former FBI Director James Comey eased pressure caused by an investigation into Russia’s influence in the 2016 presidential campaign, the New York Times reported Saturday.
An American official read the comments from a White House document summarizing the meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak, to The Times, according to the newspaper.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not dispute the comments.
“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to The Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off. “I’m not under investigation,” he added.
The comments were recorded in a White House document that was compiled based on notes taken during the meeting and distributed as an official account of the event; it was read by a U.S. official to the Times.
While not contracting the Times’ report, White House Press Secretary Spicer said, “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’s official story had been that Trump lost faith in Comey’s ability to do his job due to his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state.
A memo written by Comey, reported earlier this week, claimed Trump had tried to convince Comey to end his investigation into Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who is at the heart of the ongoing Russia investigations. Trump’s dismissal of Comey was met with bipartisan derision. The move, which came after Trump asked Comey for his loyalty and, according to memos written by the former FBI director, requested he end an investigation into Trump’s top national security adviser, was seen as a clear violation of protocol and had some Democrats calling for impeachment.
The President maintains he was surprised by the response to Comey’s firing. “Director Comey was very unpopular with most people,” he said at a news conference. “When I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision. Because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, that were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.”
The news broke shortly after Trump took off for his critically important five-country, eight-day foreign trip, the first of his presidency.
The Times report is the latest in what has been a steady stream of news that has arisen out of Trump’s decision to fire Comey and which threatens to overshadow Trump’s foreign travel.
Initially, the White House argued that Comey was fired based on the recommendations of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who wrote a memo suggesting Comey was unable to continue at the FBI.
Shortly after the New York Times reported was published, Congressman Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, asked the head of the committee, Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, to request the document mentioned in the story.
“This new report that President Trump openly admitted to the Russians that he ‘faced great pressure’ from the FBI’s criminal investigation that was ‘taken off’ when he fired Director Comey is astonishing—and extremely troubling,” he said.
Other Democrats pounced on the story, arguing it shows clear attempts by Trump to obstruct justice.
“This is what OBSTRUCTION looks like,” Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, tweeted Friday.
In another development, Comey will soon testify in open session before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.