Trump told Russians that firing `nut job' Comey eased pressure from investigation
"I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job," Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by a U.S. official. "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."
Trump added, "I'm not under investigation."
The conversation, during a May 10 meeting — the day after he fired Comey — reinforces the notion that Trump dismissed him primarily because of the bureau's investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives. Trump said as much in one televised interview, but the White House has offered changing justifications for the firing.
In a statement Friday evening, the Republican chairman and top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Comey has agreed to publicly testify in front of the panel about his role in the Russia investigation.
The White House document that 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.
Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, did not dispute the account.
In a statement, he said that Comey had put unnecessary pressure on the president's ability to conduct diplomacy with Russia on matters such as Syria, Ukraine and the Islamic State group.
"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."
Comey will testify in an open committee session sometime after Memorial Day, according to the statement, although no date has yet been set.
"I am hopeful that he will clarify for the American people recent events that have been broadly reported in the media," said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the committee. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said he expects Comey to "shed light on issues critical to this committee's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election."
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