President Trump reportedly told Russia's foreign minister and ambassador in a meeting last week that he fired FBI Director James Comey in order to take off the "pressure" of the Russia probe, The New York Times reports.
"I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job," Trump told the Russians. "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off." The comments were recorded in a White House document that was compiled based on notes taken during the meeting and distributed as an official account of the event; it was read by a U.S. official to the Times.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not contradict the report, saying: "By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia."
The White House's official story had been that Trump lost faith in Comey's ability to do his job due to his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state. Earlier Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended a memo he wrote to Trump outlining his concerns with Comey, in which he detailed a series of missteps he felt Comey had made that led him to believe "it was appropriate to seek a new leader" for the FBI.
A memo written by Comey, reported earlier this week, claimed Trump had tried to convince Comey to end his investigation into Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who is at the heart of the ongoing Russia investigations.