Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in the face of rising pressure from Capitol Hill, named former Federal Bureau of Investigation chief Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election and possible collusion between President Donald Trump's campaign and Moscow.
Pressure to place the Russia probe in independent hands intensified this week following reports that Trump pressured Comey to reel back the Russia investigation as it pertained to Michael Flynn, the national security advisor who was sacked over concerns about his Russian contacts. The individual was described by people familiar with the matter as being "someone close to the president", although the sources declined to name names.
Lavrov's recounting of the White House talk skipped over the part that raised the most alarm - that Trump allegedly not only discussed the terror threat, but also revealed the US learned about it from an Israeli intelligence source, potentially compromising the security relationship between the two nations.
Before Thursday, his last tweets regarding the firing of former FBI Director James Comey were Tuesday.
Comey has not yet informed Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the oversight panel, whether he will testify at a public hearing scheduled next week, Chaffetz told CBS News' Scott Pelley Wednesday.
In the remarks, Rosenstein said he learned a day before Comey's firing that Trump wanted to dismiss him. "I think it shows division, and it shows that we're not together as a country". Democrat Claire McCaskill corroborated Rosenstein's remarks.
USA president Donald Trump has denounced the appointment of a special counsel to investigate his campaign's ties with Russian Federation, calling it an unprecedented "witch hunt" that "hurts our country terribly". Trump aides said he never tried to squelch the Flynn investigation nor made inappropriate disclosures to the Russians.
The newspaper cites the White House's official written account of the Oval Office meeting.
The appointment of Mueller as special counsel has drawn generally favorable comments from Democrats and from some Republicans as well. "This renewed my confidence that we should not have confidence in this administration".
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) said Rosenstein told the Senators that he "leaned of the president's decision to fire him and then he wrote the memo with his rationale". Pres. Trump has insisted at times that the decision was his alone, but he also has pointed - as recently as Thursday - to the "very strong" recommendation from Rosenstein.
"My memorandum is not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination", he said. "I can not otherwise explain the accusations of the president that he handed Lavrov some sort of secrets", Putin added. He also assured the audience at a separate event that, "believe me, there's no collusion". And he's urged not only his supporters, but also the FBI, to focus more on the leaks about the investigation that have deepened questions about possible Russian Federation connections. Rosenstein denounced that as "profoundly wrong and unfair".
The official claims that Trump simply used the topic to segue into creating a sense of obligation with Russian officials and to coax concessions out of Lavrov regarding Syria, Ukraine and other issues by bringing up the fact that Russia interfering in the USA election caused him great political strife. "Russian Federation is fine, but whether it's Russian Federation or anybody else, my total priority, believe me, is the United States of America".
Unlike a USA attorney, a special counsel has more leeway in carrying out a probe.
Trump's National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster denied the president caused any security lapses while Trump himself insisted he had the "absolute right" to share "facts pertaining... to terrorism and airline flight safety" with Russian Federation.