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."
Last week, Donald Trump welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak into the Oval Office -- at the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting has proven controversial for all kinds or reasons, not the least of which is the American president's decision to share highly classified intelligence with his guests for reasons that are still unclear.But a New York Times report published this afternoon has uncovered an entirely new reason last week's White House chat is turning into one of the most consequential conversations of Trump's young presidency.
Remember, when Trump fired the then-FBI director, the official White House line was that the president's decision was unrelated to the investigation into the Russia scandal, which Comey was overseeing. And yet, here we're confronted with fresh evidence to the contrary -- with Trump admitting to Russian officials that he dismissed Comey because of the "pressure" caused by the Russia scandal.What's more, as the Times' report makes clear, this is not mere scuttlebutt from anonymous sources. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer "did not dispute the account," and the report was based on "the official account of the meeting" adopted by the Trump administration.To be sure, the president effectively admitted his reasoning for firing Comey -- a confession that carried a whiff of obstruction of justice -- in an NBC News interview last week, but now we have additional evidence of Trump conceding that the original White House line wasn't true, and his genuine motivations only add to the severity of the scandal.Indeed, consider the basic elements here:1. Russia illegally intervened in the American election to help Trump.2. The Trump campaign is facing a counter-espionage investigation for possibly colluding with Russia during its attack on our democracy.3. Trump then fired the director of the FBI because the president wanted to help quash the investigation.4. Trump then bragged about the firing to Russian officials who were welcomed into the Oval Office at Vladimir Putin's behest, simultaneously acknowledging that White House rhetoric about the firing was a lie.I'm sure assorted partisans and pundits will try to put a positive spin on this, but I don't envy their task.