The New York Times is reporting that, during their White House meeting last Wednesday, President Trump told Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that former FBI Director James Comey was a “nut job” who had been fired to relieve “pressure” stemming from the Russia investigation. This is according to a summary of the meeting that was read to the Times’ reporters by “an American official.” From the Times:
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”
The conversation, during a May 10 meeting — the day after he fired Mr. Comey — reinforces the notion that Mr. Trump dismissed him primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives. Mr. Trump said as much in one televised interview, but the White House has offered changing justifications for the firing.
The Times says that White House press secretary Sean Spicer has not disputed that account of the meeting. Spicer defended Trump’s comments in a statement: “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia,” he said.
Another American official also defended Trump to the Times:
A third government official briefed on the meeting defended the president, saying Mr. Trump was using a negotiating tactic when he told Mr. Lavrov about the “pressure” he was under. The idea, the official suggested, was to create a sense of obligation with Russian officials and to coax concessions out of Mr. Lavrov — on Syria, Ukraine and other issues — by saying that Russian meddling in last year’s election had created enormous political problems for Mr. Trump.