While White House staffers solidified the details of Trump’s first foreign trip, sensitive information apparently poured out of the administration like a sieve to major US news outlets regarding the president’s handling of the former FBI director and the ongoing law enforcement investigation into his campaign.
Giving Comey the boot ameliorated “great pressure,” Trump told Russian officials during a May 10 meeting in the White House, at least according to a version of the events leaked to the New York Times.
While speaking with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Trump reportedly said, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off … I’m not under investigation.”
Presumably, the pressure was lifted because Trump had just fired the “crazy” Comey, who he also allegedly described as a “real nut job.”
The mainstream media have jumped on the as-yet-anonymous reports as additional fuel for their assertions that Trump ousted Comey for investigating his ties with Russia. They have, however, also jumped in with both feet on almost any anonymous story linking this administration with Russia, spreading tales of electrical grids being hacked and breathlessly repeating reports “proving” Russian interference in US elections, many of which have been found to be totally without merit.
The White House says the notion that Trump fired Comey for investigating his and his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia is absurd. “The investigation would have always continued, and, obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Friday.
Trump and the White House have offered multiple, inconsistent motivations for Comey’s early dismissal.
A US official briefed on the conversation said Trump was using “pressure” he faced from Comey as a negotiating ploy to win diplomatic gains from Lavrov on issues of dispute between Washington and Moscow – namely Syria and Ukraine.
The White House executive summary “contained Mr. Trump’s comments, was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and has been circulated as the official account of the meeting,” the Times said. In other words, if this statement is accurate, this leak emerged from Trump’s very residence – not from the "LEAKERS" in various federal agencies that have evoked his ire.
Meanwhile, a White House official “close to the president” is said to be under the microscope as a “person of interest” in the criminal investigation into prohibited collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, the Washington Post reports. It is widely reported that this person is Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser Jared Kushner.
In legal terms, a “person of interest” can be a number of things. It can mean the “target” or “subject” of an investigation, but it can also mean someone merely “mentioned once speculatively,” observed criminal defense attorney Ken White. The Post excludes this disambiguation from the article, White noted.
Other US attorneys were similarly underwhelmed by WaPo’s scoop. “The Post story is written using carefully chosen language — language that looks far more ominous to those who aren’t familiar with legalese. The bottom line? We don’t know have any idea whether this story matters,” lawyer David French wrote in the National Review.
The Washington Post and New York Times have themselves been purveyors of fake news at certain points.