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Two more bombshell reports published Friday afternoon delivered a one-two punch to the Trump White House regarding the investigation into its potential ties to Russia, capping off a week where each day dealt a fresh blockbuster blow to the administration.
In one story, the Washington Post reported that a law enforcement Russia probe has identified a current adviser to the president as a “person of interest,” while a New York Times story reported that the commander in chief told visiting Russian officials that the firing of “nut job” FBI Director James Comey had taken a weight off his shoulders.
“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” President Trump said in a meeting with Russian officials last week, according to the Times report on a document summarizing the meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Trump reportedly added that he wasn’t under investigation, which is potentially untrue, since the president may not know the extent or specifics of the probe. The White House did not dispute the Times reporting on Trump’s quote.
The Washington Post story reported that the probe into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia had identified a senior White House adviser who is close to the president as a “significant person of interest.” The Post also reported that while the initial investigation was into coordination between Trump officials and Russia, sources said it has expanded to include potential financial crimes committed by those close to Trump.
Two members of the Trump campaign and transition team with reported ties to Russia — former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chair Paul Manafort — are not current White House officials, meaning the Post reporting has identified a new connection.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer commented on the Times report, reiterating the president’s recent characterization of Comey as a “grandstander.”
“By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia,” said Spicer in a statement to the Times regarding its story. “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.”
The conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak took place on May 10, one day after Trump fired Comey. This was the same meeting in which Trump revealed previously classified information. The White House initially said that Comey was fired following the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but Trump undercut that account in an interview on May 11 when he said he was going to fire Comey regardless of what Rosenstein suggested because the FBI chief was a “showboat.”
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