Senior White House Adviser Is Reportedly a Significant Person of Interest in Trump-Russia Probe

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U.S. President Donald J. Trump (C) speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L) and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak during a meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 10, 2017.
The now-notorious meeting last week between (from left) Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, President Trump, and Russian Ambassador Kislyak, at the White House.Credit: Russian Foreign Ministry / AFP

A current White House official is a significant person of interest in the investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, people familiar with the matter told the Washington Post. 

According to the report, the White House official is a senior adviser to President Donald Trump. The Washington Post noted that its sources refused to identify the person further. 

The report was published as Trump traveled to Saudi Arabia on the first leg of a trip abroad that the White House hopes will shift attention away from the political firestorm triggered by his firing last week of former FBI Director James Comey. 

Comey was leading the probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and possible ties to Trump's campaign. 

His firing and news reports that Trump had previously asked Comey to stop investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn led critics to charge that Trump may have improperly sought to hamper the FBI probe. 

"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 spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement in response to the Post's report. 

After days of turmoil in Washington, the Justice Department announced the appointment on Thursday of a special counsel to look into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign. 

Separately, the New York Times reported on Friday that Trump told Russian officials at a White House meeting last week that firing Comey relieved "great pressure" that the president was facing from the ongoing probe into Russia and the election. 

"I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job," Trump said, according to the Times, which cited a document summarizing the meeting and read to it by a U.S. official. "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off." 

Trump met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russia's ambassador to Washington in the Oval Office the day after he fired Comey. 

The Times said the document was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office. Reuters was not immediately able to verify the accuracy of the Times' account. 

The Times report added to the impression given by Trump himself in a television interview last week in which he said that the Russia issue was a factor in firing Comey, although the White House has given different versions of the reasons for the dismissal. 

Asked about the Times report, Spicer said of the former FBI chief, "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," Spicer said, adding that the real story was the leaks of "private and highly classified conversations."