In a White House meeting earlier this month, President Donald Trump told the Russian ambassador to the United States that his abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey was going to remove a "great pressure" on his ability to do his job.
“I just fired the head of the FBI He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to official meeting notes which were read aloud to the New York Times by an administration source.
“I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off," the president reportedly said.
Even before he took office, Trump has repeatedly lashed out at law enforcement figures for their efforts to investigate possible collusion between his former campaign and Russian government officials.
Trump's meeting with ambassador Sergey Lavrov came just one day after he had fired Comey. Initially, the administration had claimed that the president had terminated Comey's employment based solely upon a recommendation from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
In testimony before a closed-door congressional hearing today, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein confirmed that Trump had decided to fire Comey before receiving any advice from the DOJ.
"On May 8, I learned that President Trump intended to remove Director Comey and sought my advice and input," Rosenstein said, according to a leak of his prepared remarks.
In an interview with NBC that aired May 11, Trump seemingly confirmed that the FBI's Russia investigation was what prompted him to fire Comey:
“I was going to fire Comey,” Trump said defiantly. “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.'”
In a May 12 news conference, deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders officially stated the administration's desire to end the investigation.
“We want this to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to its conclusion with integrity,” she said. “And we think that we’ve actually, by removing Director Comey, taken steps to make that happen.”