President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”
The conversation, during a May 10 meeting — the day after he fired Mr. Comey — reinforces the notion that the president dismissed him primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives. Mr. Trump said as much in one televised interview, but the White House has offered changing justifications for the firing.
The comments represented an extraordinary moment in the investigation, which centers in part on the administration’s contacts with Russian officials: A day after firing the man leading that inquiry, Mr. Trump disparaged him — to Russian officials.
The White House document that 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. One official read quotations to The Times, and a second official confirmed the broad outlines of the discussion.
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, did not dispute the account.
So, let’s review: the President of the United States told the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador that he fired the “nut job” director of the FBI to get the heat off of himself … because of his relationship to them.
When the Comey firing first broke, some in the media compared it to Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre.” I thought that was over the top. You may recall that President Nixon faced possible impeachment in part over obstruction of justice charges in the House, but resigned to avoid that potential fate. President Clinton was impeached in part on an obstruction of justice charge for lying under oath about his extramarital affair. The more this Trump-Comey thing drags out, the easier it is becoming to make an obstruction of justice charge plausible as part of an impeachment proceeding (which is not the same thing as a criminal proceeding, note well).
A country whose president fires the FBI director because he’s irritated by an investigation into members of his administration, in particular an investigation that involves possible illegal contacts with a hostile foreign power. That’s what we have become.