President Donald Trump told Russian diplomats who visited the Oval Office that firing former FBI director James Comey relieved “great pressure” he felt regarding the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives, according to a New York Times report.
Trump referred to Comey, who was fired earlier this month, as a “real nut job,” according to the Times, which cited a document that summarized the president’s meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to the Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
“I’m not under investigation,” he added, according to the Times.
Trump’s comments again highlight that he seemingly fired Comey because he was frustrated with the FBI’s investigation into ties between his campaign and Russia. Although he essentially said he came to his decision because of the investigation during an interview with NBC News last week, the White House’s official reasoning for firing Comey has shifted several times.
The meeting between Trump and the Russian officials also proved controversial after it was revealed that the president disclosed classified information to the diplomats.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not dispute the Times account of Trump’s conversation with the Russian officials. He said in a statement that Comey put pressure on Trump’s ability to work on diplomatic matters with Russia.
“By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia,” 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.”