A pair of published reports Friday afternoon stated that an investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a person of interest and that President Trump told the Russian foreign minister that fired Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey was a “nut job.”
The Washington Post, citing people it called familiar with the matter, said a person close to the president was under scrutiny. That said, the investigation is interested in campaign officials who aren’t in the White House, including former national-security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The Post article emphasized that the intensifying effort doesn’t mean criminal charges are near. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed earlier this week to head the investigation as special counsel.
See: Why the White House should worry: Special counsels usually result in criminal charges
The New York Times meanwhile reported, basing its story on a White House document, that Trump had told the Russians during Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit of his opinion of Comey, reportedly saying the firing relieved pressure on him. “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off,” the Times report quoted Trump as telling Lavrov.
The Times report quoted one government official as saying Trump was trying to coax concessions out of Lavrov by creating a sense of obligation.
Trump is flying to Saudi Arabia Friday in his first trip abroad as president.