The investigation into the Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections and alleged collusion by Trump campaign aides has identified a “significant person of interest”, who is currently serving in the White House as a senior adviser to the president and is considered close to him, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
The newspaper, however, did not name the person.
The revelation by The Post came just about the same time as The New York Times reported the President Donald Trump had described the sacked FBI director James Comey as a “nut job” to Russian officials he met in the Oval Office last week, and told them his firing had taken the pressure off him.
“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump told Russia foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to a transcript of the conversation read out to The New York Times by an official.
“I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off,” Trump said. “I’m not under investigation,” he added.
Both these explosive new revelations were reported just about the time Air Force One was clearing the US airspace carrying President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump to their first overseas tour that starts in Saudi Arabia and will take them to more 5 nations before they return home after 9 days.
In short, investigators now have a suspect — a person of interest is someone who is believed to be possibly involved in a criminal act but has not been arrested or formally charged. And evidence that Trump trying to shut the down the Russia probe, for whatever reason, is mounting.
The person of interest is in the White House, which ruled out Michael Flynn and campaign aides who are all long gone. Senior adviser Jared Kushner, attorney general Jeff Sessions and secretary of state Rex Tillerson are the currently serving officials with known prior contacts with Russians.
But The Post said this new turn in the investigation did not indicate criminal charges were either necessarily near or imminent.
That call might be former FBI director Robert Muller’s, who has been named the special counsel to head the investigation of the Russian meddling, Trump campaign’s alleged collusion and anything else that could come up given the broad authority at his disposal.
“As the president has stated before, a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity,” White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said in a statement.
About the “nut job” comment to the Russians, Spicer said, also in a statement, “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia. The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”
He did not, significantly, dispute the account of the conversation given to the Times.
Trump’s meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak drew considerable attention, coming as it did just the day after the president had stunned the country firing Comey without a warning. Photos of the meeting were released by Moscow, and not the White House that controls media coverage of these events.
At the same meeting, Trump had also shared with the Russians highly classified intelligence about the Islamic State passed on to the United States by Israel, potentially endangering the life of the spy in the ranks of the terrorist outfit who had provided it.