Federal Bureau of Investigation probe moves into White House

Separately the New York Times reported that Trump boasted to Russian officials at a White House meeting last week that firing Comey relieved "great pressure" the president faced from a law-enforcement probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

"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 in a statement to the press. "I wrote a brief memorandum to the attorney general summarizing my long-standing concerns about Director Comey's public statements concerning the Secretary Clinton email investigation".

Comey's October 28, 2016 letter to the FBI announcing he was reopening the investigation "flouted rules and deeply ingrained traditions", and guaranteed some people would question the FBI's role in the U.S. presidential election, Rosenstein continued. "He was insane, a real nutjob", the newspaper reported, referring to a summary of the conversation.

The "nutjob" remarks are not the first things Trump said during his Lavrov meeting that have gained widespread attention. Comey publicly confirmed the existence of the investigation in March, telling Congress that his agents were investigating Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the presidential election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign had been involved. The president's son-in-law initially omitted contacts with foreign leaders from a national security questionnaire, though his lawyer has said publicly he submitted the form prematurely and informed the Federal Bureau of Investigation soon after he would provide an update. Those issues were not resolved with his speech to members of the House on Friday. Trump's first national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, was sacked over misstatements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

At first, the White House insisted that Trump had sacked Comey over his handling of the investigation into Clinton's private email server, on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein said that though he was personally fond of Comey, "I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader". The Washington Post reported that a senior Trump administration official is now a "person of interest" in the Russian Federation probe.

With Sessions on the sidelines, lawmakers new Rosenstein would have the authority to oversee the FBI's Russian Federation investigation or outsource it to a special counsel.

People familiar with the investigation said the intensifying effort does not mean criminal charges are near, or that any such charges will result.

Unlike Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel appointed by a three-judge panel to investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton's real estate holdings in the 1990s, Mueller depends on the Justice Department for funding and he reports to Rosenstein, who was appointed by Trump.

Before the latest reports, the White House had hoped to shift attention away from the political firestorm in Washington to foreign policy as well as the president's ambitious pro-business economic agenda in Congress.

It's unclear how the White House believes Comey politicized the case, but he testified publicly that the probe was ongoing a week before he was sacked. Though he complained this week that "no politician in history. has been treated worse or more unfairly", the reality is that Trump has been somewhat insulated by journalists' inability to show that the FBI investigation touches him or anyone on his White House staff directly.

  • Leroy Wright