US President Donald Trump told Russian diplomats that firing the "nut job" Federal Bureau of Investigation director had relieved "great pressure" on him, according to The New York Times.
President Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak at the White House on May 10.
The Washington Post reported that investigators have identified a current White House aide as a person of interest in the Russian Federation investigation.
Air Force One departed from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, outside Washington, with the president, first lady Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as a group of senior advisers and journalists covering the trip.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that "the senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president". The details of his comments to the Russians would seem to bolster theories that Trump fired Comey in an effort to choke off the Russia investigation.
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 chose to fire Comey before receiving Rosenstein's recommendation.
The Trump administration is exploring whether it can use an obscure ethics rule to undermine the special counsel investigation into ties between President Donald Trump's campaign team and Russian Federation, two people familiar with White House thinking said on Friday.
The Justice Department on Friday issued the text of Rosenstein's opening remarks for the briefings on Capitol Hill. That pattern begins with Trump's reported requests for Comey to pledge his loyalty and assurance that he wasn't under FBI investigation and ends when he fired Comey and criticized him in front of the Russians.
Rosenstein also said he was not aware that Comey had requested more resources for the Russian Federation probe before he was sacked, as some reports have alleged.
The appointment of Mueller as special counsel has drawn generally favorable comments from Democrats and from some Republicans as well.
The worldwide trip, which includes stops in the Middle East and Europe, comes at an opportune time for the White House, which has endured a week full of bombshell news stories that threaten to engulf the administration.
She said subjects of the investigation could later argue that its results cannot be trusted, but she believes the argument would not stand up in court.
In his Congressional testimony, Rosenstein said that he strongly disagreed with a number of Comey's decisions regarding the investigation into former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's private email server. Rosenstein denounced that as "profoundly wrong and unfair". A well-paid lawyer would argue that Trump was saying in the NBC interview that he was thinking about Russian Federation, but that it wasn't necessarily the reason he acted. However, at a combative news conference Thursday, he fell short in trying to resolve questions about investigations into his campaign and his first four months in office.
He then added: "I'm not under investigation". Sessions has recused himself from the Trump-Russia probe, citing his close involvement in the Trump campaign a year ago.
"Director Comey was very unpopular with most people", Mr Trump said.