‘White House adviser is person of interest in Russian Federation probe’
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said, “I can’t confirm or deny the existence or non-existence of investigations or targets of investigations”.
The Times report, and another in The Washington Post, surfaced as Trump was en route to Saudi Arabia for the first stop on his overseas tour that will take him through the Middle East and Europe. The White House counsel’s office was alerted only after the order appointing Mueller was signed, said a senior White House official, who was not authorized to speak publicly by name and commented only on condition of anonymity.
But Trump himself told NBC News last week that he would have fired Comey regardless of the recommendations, saying he did it because “this Russian Federation thing with Trump and Russian Federation is a made-up story”.
Earlier this week, the Times reported that Comey kept detailed memos of his conversations with Trump, including one from a February meeting in which Trump suggested he “let go” of the investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser who resigned the day after the president’s meeting with Comey.
The report is the latest in a steady stream of bad headlines for the White House related to the fallout of Comey’s firing.
The official claims that Trump simply used the topic to segue into creating a sense of obligation with Russian officials and to coax concessions out of Lavrov regarding Syria, Ukraine and other issues by bringing up the fact that Russia interfering in the United States election caused him great political strife.
He said he learned that Trump meant to remove Comey on May 8, and agreed with the decision, and wrote a memo summarizing his “longstanding concerns”. But in the context of the FBI investigation, the separation between Trump and those working on his behalf is shrinking as the probe pushes nearer to his inner circle.
The quotes from Trump come from a White House document based on notes taken from a meeting Trump had with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office, according to the New York Times.
The Kremlin took that tack as well, with Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling Comey’s dismissal an “internal affair” that “has nothing to do and should have nothing to do with Russian Federation”.
The report was published as Trump traveled to Saudi Arabia on the first leg of a trip overseas that the White House hopes will shift attention away from the political firestorm triggered by his firing last week of former FBI Director James Comey.
What was already reported about that day was that he leaked classified information to them. Originally, the White House’s position was that Comey was sacked on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who cited the FBI director’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation during the campaign.
Trump also said Comey assured him on three occasions that he was not personally under investigation, including at a January dinner in which Trump reportedly asked Comey to pledge his loyalty to him.
The remarks will likely dampen Democratic accusations that Trump fired Comey because he wanted to stymie the FBI’s investigation into interference by Russian Federation and any collusion with Trump’s campaign. For fark’s sake, Putin probably thinks Trump owes him for everything Russian Federation did during the campaign to try to damage Hillary. Officials said it had nothing to do with the Russian Federation investigation.