Donald Trump told Russian officials that firing 'nut job' Comey 'eased pressure from investigation'
Donald Trump told Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting that firing former FBI Director James Comey eased pressure caused by an investigation into Russia's influence in the 2016 campaign, the New York Times reports.
"I just fired the head of the FBI He was crazy, a real nut job," Mr Trump said, according to a document detailing the Russian visit. "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."
The President also reiterated that he was not personally under investigation.
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The document, which was read to the New York Times by sources in the White House, is the latest evidence that Mr Trump fired Mr Comey at least in part because of an ongoing investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian officials. He had previously admitted that the investigation was part of the reasoning for the decision.
The White House did not dispute the account portrayed, and instead said that the FBI investigation had put unnecessary pressure on the President's ability to conduct diplomacy with Russia.
"By grandstanding and politicising the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said. "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."
Meanwhile, on Friday evening the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed that Mr Comey would testify in 'open session' about the investigation into possible links between the Trump team and Russian officials.
Mr Comey's ouster followed requests from the President that he stop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign for misrepresenting a conversation he had with Russian officials to Vice President Mike Pence. It was later discovered that the Trump administration knew about Mr Flynn's connections to Russia - which also include payments for a speech to the Russian state supported news organisation RT - even before bringing him into the White House. Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates had also warned the White House that Mr Flynn was potentially vulnerable to Russian extortion nearly three weeks before he stepped down.
Close aides and advisors to Mr Trump have been under scrutiny for having contact with Russians during the campaign and during the presidential transition period. The United States government officially announced last year that Russia had meddled in the 2016 election.