The White House is not denying a report Friday afternoon that President Donald Trump called former FBI Director James Comey a "nut job" in a meeting with the Russian foreign minister the day after firing Comey.
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The remarks, reported in The New York Times, came amid an investigation into potential collusion between the president's campaign and Russian government officials, allegations Trump has repeatedly dismissed as "fake news."
"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," said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in a statement.
"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."
The Times reported on Friday that Trump told the Russians he "faced great pressure" because of the ongoing investigations into Russian meddling.
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump told the Russians in the Oval Office on May 10, according to a document read to the The New York Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
A special counsel has been appointed to spearhead the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and whether any associates of Trump colluded with Russian officials during the campaign. Multiple congressional panels are also digging into questions surrounding Trump and Russia.
The White House originally pointed to the recommendation of acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as the impetus for Comey's firing, but Trump and Rosenstein have both since said that Trump decided to fire Comey before receiving Rosenstein's recommendation.