NYT: Trump Tells Russians Comey Was A "Nut Job"
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WASHINGTON (AP) - During his meeting with Russian officials last week, President Donald Trump said recently fired FBI Director James Comey was a "nut job" whose ouster relieved "great pressure" on him, according to a report Friday in The New York Times.
The Times cited notes from a May 10 Oval Office meeting, the day after Trump fired Comey.
Separately, The Washington Post reported Friday that the FBI investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign was moving closer to the White House. Law enforcement officials now consider a senior Trump adviser a "person of interest" in the probe, the Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The report did not name the adviser.
The developments were a blow to White House efforts to tamp down interest in the Russia investigation as Trump and his staff boarded Air Force One for Saudi Arabia, first stop on his first foreign trip as president. The details of his comments to the Russians would seem to bolster theories that Trump fired Comey in an effort to choke off the Russia investigation.
Earlier this week, the Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to take over the federal investigation in an effort to re-establish independence from the White House.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told Congress Friday he stands by a memo he wrote bluntly criticizing Comey. But he made clear it was not his intention for Trump or other White House officials to use the document to justify firing Comey, which is what they have done.
In closed-door meetings with lawmakers on Thursday and Friday, Rosenstein said he wrote the memo after Trump told him one day before the May 9 firing that he wanted to dismiss Comey. Rosenstein said that though he was personally fond of Comey, "I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader."
The Justice Department on Friday issued the text of Rosenstein's opening remarks for the briefings on Capitol Hill. That was two days after Rosenstein named Mueller as a special counsel to investigate possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Trump has said he plans to nominate a new FBI director soon, and that had been expected before his departure. However the White House said there would be no announcement Friday.
The appointment of Mueller as special counsel has drawn generally favorable comments from Democrats and from some Republicans as well. But lawmakers at both congressional sessions expressed frustration that Rosenstein would say little in answer to their questions about his actions - or others' - before Comey's firing.