WASHINGTON — Two more major and potentially damaging reports about President Donald Trump’s dealings with Russia were published Friday, shortly after the president departed for his first overseas trip.
In a potential bombshell, the Washington Post reports that investigators are focusing on a current White House official close to Trump as a person of interest in their probe into the administration’s ties to Russia. It is the first indication that the investigation is looking at a current senior White House adviser.
"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 press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters in response to the story.
A second story, from The New York Times, quotes the president telling Russian officials in a meeting earlier this month that FBI Director James Comey was "a real nut job" and his dismissal relieved "great pressure."
"I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job," Trump said, according to the report.
"I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off," he added.
White House officials did not dispute the account as reported by the Times and said in a statement:
"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. 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 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."
Trump left Friday for Saudi Arabia, the first stop on an 8-day foreign trip.