James Comey to testify before Senate panel after Donald Trump called fired FBI boss a 'nut job'

trump comey
Donald Trump and James Comey
  • Trump 'said firing Comey eased pressure over Russia'
  • Current White House official 'significant person of interest in Russia probe'
  • President jets off to Saudi Arabia
  • Nine-day tour is first overseas trip of his presidency
  • Comey to testify before Senate panel
  • Russians 'bragged about Flynn influence'

Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by President Donald Trump last week amid an agency investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the US election, has agreed to testify before the US Senate intelligence committee.

The public hearing will be scheduled after the May 29 Memorial Day holiday, the committee said in a statement on Friday.

The appearance will come under intense scrutiny after it was claimed Mr Trump urged Mr Comey to end the FBI investigation into Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.  

Mr Comey will certainly be asked about other encounters that precipitated his firing, including a January dinner in which, Mr Comey has told associates, the president asked for his loyalty. 

The announcement came hours after it emerged that Mr Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office that Mr Comey was a "crazy nut job" and firing him had relieved “great pressure”.

Mr Trump reportedly told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off. I’m not under investigation."

Mr Trump with Mr Lavrov and Mr Kislyak in the Oval Office Credit: AFP

The comments were reported by The New York Times and taken from a White House document summarising the meeting.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, did not dispute the account.

Mr Trump met the Russian diplomats on May 10, the day after he fired Mr Comey.

Mr Comey had been investigating whether there was collusion between Russia and anyone connected to the Trump campaign during last year's presidential election.

In a statement, Mr Spicer said Mr Comey's pursuit of the probe had harmed Mr Trump's ability to deal with Russia over issues including Syria and Ukraine.

Mr Spicer said: "By grandstanding and politicising the investigation into Russia’s actions James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia."

It emerged earlier this week that at the same Oval Office meeting Mr Trump shared with the Russian diplomats classified intelligence relating to a plot by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The intelligence had come from Israel, which had not agreed for it to be shared. Israel later stood by Mr Trump who said he had an "absolute right" to share it.

Russians 'bragged about Flynn influence'

Democrats have argued that Mr Trump's firing of Mr Comey during his Russia investigation could amount to obstruction of justice.

A special counsel, Robert Mueller, has now been appointed to investigate Russian meddling in the election.

Mr Flynn has been at the heart of the investigations over his links with Russians. According to CNN, Moscow officials bragged in conversations during the presidential campaign that they had forged a strong relationship with Mr Trump's adviser and believed they could use him to influence the Republican and his team.

The conversations concerned US intelligence officials to such an extent that some of them limited how much sensitive information they shared with Mr Flynn, current and former government officials told CNN on Friday.

"This was a five-alarm fire from early on, the way the Russians were talking about him," one former Obama administration official was quoted as saying.

'Current White House official is significant person of interest in Russia investigation'

It came as a current White House official was identified as a "significant person of interest" in the investigation into any coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, The Washington Post reported.

The person was said to be a White House adviser "close to the president," officials told the newspaper. They also said that did not mean any criminal charges were near.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, wave as they board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, May 19, 2017, prior to his departure on his first overseas trip Credit: AP

Trump departs for first overseas tour

The latest controversy came as Mr Trump set out for the Middle East on his first trip abroad as president.

Saudi Arabia rolled out the red carpet as Mr Trump embarked on a charm offensive to gain support for his plans to forge an "Arab Nato". 

The president will be served his favourite meal of steak and ketchup when he sits down for dinner tonight (SAT) as his hosts try to accommodate the US leader.

In Riyadh, where Mr Trump's repeated denunciations of Iran have been welcomed, US flags lined roads along with pictures of Mr Trump and King Salman and the message "Together we prevail". 

The trip is set to be a crucial test of Mr Trump's ability to rally allies and assert himself on the world stage, and a chance to leave behind the domestic turmoil that has engulfed his White House.

Saudi Arabia is the first of five stops on a marathon nine-day world tour and Mr Trump is expected to unveil a major arms deal, brokered by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, worth more than $100 billion over a decade.

Aides said he would also discuss his vision for an "Arab Nato" including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan aimed at fighting terrorism and countering Iran.

Saudi Arabia invited leaders and representatives of 55 countries for the visit. Perhaps the highlight was due to be a speech by Mr Trump on Islam, drafted by his adviser Stephen Miller. Mr Miller played a key role in drawing up the president's travel ban aimed at barring people from a group of predominantly Muslim countries entering America..

The White House said Mr Trump would use the speech to emphasise the "need to confront radical ideology".

US allies expressed concern at Mr Trump's rhetoric during last year's election campaign about withdrawing America from its commitments around the world.

Hours before setting out from Washington, Mr Trump said: "Getting ready for my big foreign trip. Will be strongly protecting American interests - that's what I like to do!"

But aides said his message would be one of "unity to America's friends".

In an ambitious trip Mr Trump will go on to Israel, Rome, Brussels for a Nato meeting, and Sicily for the G7.

A timeline of James Comey's fall from grace A timeline of James Comey's fall from grace
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