In a meeting with Russian officials one day after he abruptly fired James Comey, President Donald Trump expressed relief about being rid of the “real nut job” former FBI director, saying it took “great pressure” off him, according to a Friday report in the New York Times.
An unnamed American official read out a summary of the meeting to the Times.
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to the document summarizing the meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
“I’m not under investigation,” the President reportedly told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in a May 10 meeting in the Oval Office.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not deny the accuracy of Trump’s quotes in a statement to the Times.
“By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in the statement. “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.”
This latest damaging story was published shortly after Trump left for Saudi Arabia to kick off a nine-day international trip, his first as commander-in-chief.
Administration officials including Spicer, Vice President Mike Pence and senior adviser Kellyanne Conway initially argued that Comey’s dismissal had “nothing to do” with the FBI investigation into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election, which includes looking into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russian operatives.
The Kremlin took that tack as well, with Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling Comey’s dismissal an “internal affair” that “has nothing to do and should have nothing to do with Russia.”
But Trump himself quickly trashed that narrative in an interview with NBC News. Though he has consistently called the Russia probe a “witch hunt,” he told anchor Lester Holt that it played into his decision to get rid of Comey.
“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,” the President admitted.
Comey’s sudden dismissal and reports that Trump asked the former FBI director to curb the bureau’s investigation into his ousted national security adviser, Michael Flynn, prompted Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel this week to oversee the probe.