President Donald Trump characterized former FBI director James Comey, whom the president had fired just a day earlier, as a "nut job" to top Russian government officials during a recent Oval Office meeting, the New York Times reports on Friday citing an anonymous U.S. official who read from an internal document that purportedly summarized the exchange.
Trump was meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the White House on May 10 when, according to the account reported by the Times, he made the derisive statements about Comey and also indicated possible motivations behind the director's ouster. "I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job," Mr. Trump said, according to the readout of the document provided to the Times. "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."
The Times reports the document contained Trump's comments "was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and has been circulated as the official account of the meeting. One official read quotations to The Times, and a second official confirmed the broad outlines of the discussion."
Even as the steady flow (or flood) or revelations based on anonymous leaks to the Times, the Washington Post, and other major mainstream outlets has been the source of some consternation, even among those highly critical of the Trump administration, Friday's leak arrived Friday just as Air Force One was taking off for Trump's first overseas trip since taking office.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was among the first to indicate the comments, if confirmed, could be the basis for serious legal trouble for the president.
This is what OBSTRUCTION looks like: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” https://t.co/8ktKsQ03Uf
— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) May 19, 2017
In a statement to the Times, White House press secretary Sean Spicer disputed the implications, but did not deny Trump made such comments. "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 in part.
In response, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), asked this question: "What’s worse: President admitting Comey was fired over Russia, or Spicer justifying it?"