President Donald Trump was barely out over the Atlantic, headed toward a 10-day tour of Europe and the Middle East, when the New York Times and Washington Post dropped new revelations that suggest that his troubles over Russia are far from over.
The President is headed to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy, Vatican City and will make several other stops, and his foreign trip—particularly an upcoming “major speech” on Islam—is sure to dominate headlines.
Likely sensing that any further stories needed to get out before the President’s overseas actions made headlines (good or bad), both the NYT and the Post dropped Friday afternoon scoops.
The NYT claims that an official close to Trump’s inner circle might be the subject of an inquiry over his ties to Russia. The Post, meanwhile, says Trump told Russian officials during his Oval Office meeting that he fired “nut job” FBI director James Comey to relieve the “pressure” of the FBI’s investigation into Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn.
Alone, the two stories aren’t particularly surprising. Sources close to the White House have been hinting that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner could be in the FBI’s sights. The White House itself even acknowledged that Kushner had contacts with Russian officials, and that Kushner pushed for Comey’s firing (as well as voiced opposition to an independent counsel investigation).
The other possible target, Stephen Miller, has been under scrutiny since he was hired as a communications official on Trump’s Presidential campaign.
The New York Times story seems to lend credence to the theory that Trump fired James Comey because he was upset with the FBI’s investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia. But Trump has already acknowledged, in defiance of the White House’s official line, that he booted Comey over his “poor” job performance.
The White House responded to the New York Times by saying that Trump meant to tell the Russians about Comey, adding that the President thought the line would help open negotiations with Putin’s delegation. The explanation was dismissed by most news organizations, but based on Trump’s prior attempts at diplomacy, the White House might not actually be fibbing.
Regardless, the two stories are likely to keep Trump’s Russia troubles brewing over the weekend, even as the President tries to repair his image with a strong first foreign tour.
At least he’s not going to Russia.