Sen. John McCain said Sunday that he was “almost speechless” over reports that President Donald Trump told Russian officials that former FBI Director James Comey was “a real nut job.”
“I don’t know why someone would say something like that,” McCain (R-Ariz.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” He said that firing Comey “was not a wise thing to do.” He added, “Mr. Comey was highly respected and highly regarded, and so I can’t explain it.”
According to The New York Times, Trump told Russian officials earlier this month that Comey — who was investigating whether Trump’s campaign had ties to Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election — was “crazy, a real nut job” and that “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Meanwhile, administration officials on Sunday talk shows defended the president’s remarks to Russian officials.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump, who hosted Russian officials in the Oval Office on May 10, was trying to reassure them he was not being distracted.
“I think what the president was trying to convey to the Russians is, ‘Look, I’m not going to be distracted by this,’ ” he said. “I’m not going to let that distract from our efforts to see if we can engage with you, engage with Russia, and identify areas where we might be able to work together. The president I think re-emphasized the message to the Russians that the relationship is at a low point and we need to change that, we need to both work towards trying to improve that.”
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster also said Trump was trying to find common ground with the Russians.
“I think what’s been hurting our ability to deal with Russia more than any other factor has been Russia’s behavior,” he said on ABC News’ “This Week.”
McMaster would not say whether Trump discussed Kremlin meddling in the U.S. presidential election with the Russian diplomats he hosted earlier this month.
As he left for his first foreign trip, Trump faced a newly appointed special prosecutor, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, overseeing the investigation into Russian meddling and related matters. The president also was under criticism over reports that he revealed classified information on ISIS to Russia.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said on “This Week” that he hoped Trump didn’t call Comey a “nut job” to Russians.
“I don’t know if that was said or not said. You would like — I would think — the president to kind of beat him over the head with the fact that if they did — the Russians — if they actually did interfere in any way, shape, or form, how wrong that is and how outraged America is on both sides of the aisle,” he said.
Even with the Department of Justice investigation, congressional leaders said their investigations would continue.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said: “I want every note that they have . . . There have been so many lies, so many contradictions. And I think documents will help us to ferret out exactly what’s the truth and what’s a lie. And so I’m hoping that the chairman will issue subpoenas so that we can get every document. Because I think that’s what we need.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he would hold off on criticizing Trump for firing Comey until the Senate Intelligence Committee completes its investigation.
Generally, Rubio said, “if any president tries to impede an investigation . . . It would be not just problematic. It would be, you know, obviously potential obstruction of justice.”
But Rubio said he wanted to let the investigation run its course.
With Emily Ngo