WASHINGTON – Just hours after he departed for the Middle East on Friday, President Trump was hit with double-barreled news leaks involving the Russia investigation.
The New York Times reported that Trump told Russian officials that James Comey, the FBI director he abruptly fired last week, is a “nut job,” and that dismissing him meant the pressure of the FBI’s Russia probe has been “taken off.”
The Washington Post reported that a White House adviser close to the president – whose name was not included in the report – has been identified as a “person of interest” in the investigation of possible collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russians who sought to influence the 2016 election by hacking Democratic officials.
White House officials did not deny either story, but only stressed that Trump and his staff had no collusion with Russia.
“As the President has stated before, a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in response to the Post story that a White House official is now ensnared in the probe.
The president himself labeled the ongoing FBI probe a “witch hunt” this week after the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to oversee it in the wake of Comey’s firing. Earlier this week, revelations that Comey kept memos detailing his conversations with Trump, including one in which the president apparently pressed his former FBI director to drop the inquiry into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, roiled Washington.
As for the conversation with the Russians about Comey, Spicer essentially put the onus on the ex-FBI director.
“The President has always emphasized the importance of making deals with Russia as it relates to Syria, Ukraine, defeating ISIS and other key issues for the benefit and safety of the American people,” Spicer said. “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 denied that Trump fired Comey to block the Russia investigation, saying, “the investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. The real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”
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Article Courtesy of USA Today and WKYC Channel 3 News Cleveland
Picture Courtesy of The Washington Post and Getty Images