James Comey to testify before Senate in public hearing

Comey is known to produce memos documenting especially sensitive or unsettling encounters, such as after the February meeting. Comey's October 28, 2016 letter to the FBI announcing he was reopening the investigation "flouted rules and deeply ingrained traditions", and guaranteed some people would question the FBI's role in the USA presidential election, Rosenstein continued.

Also worth asking: Does news of the escalated FBI investigation change the standards of what makes a "good" FBI director for Republicans?

The Times said the document was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office.

"I just fired the head of the FBI", Trump said, according to the Times account. "He was insane, a real nut job", Mr Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by a U.S. official. Rather, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told the Times the pressure Trump was referring to was on his administration's "ability to engage and negotiate with Russian Federation".

White House spokesman Sean Spicer called the presidents rhetoric part of his deal-making.

"By grandstanding and politicising the investigation into Russia's actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russian Federation. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations".

The Trump administration is exploring whether it can use an obscure ethics rule to undermine the special counsel investigation into ties between President Donald Trump's campaign team and Russian Federation, two people familiar with White House thinking said on Friday.

Trump, accompanied by wife Melania, walk across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Friday.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 18, 2017.

The rule restricts newly appointed government officials from investigating clients of prior employers.

The election interference aspect, which was first alleged in October in a report by the U.S. intelligence community, appears to be an accepted fact, said Democratic representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who has been at the centre of some of the more explosive congressional revelations about the Russian Federation probe.

However, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Comey declined their invitation to testify before the panel over the circumstances surrounding his abrupt removal.

The White House has been thrown into turmoil by a string of allegations against Mr Trump this week, including that he may have obstructed justice by asking Mr Comey to drop an investigation into one of his top advisors. Rosenstein said he had "discussed the need for new leadership at the FBI" with then-senator Sessions last winter.

Rosenstein said in testimony to the Congress this week that investigators are now looking into the possibility of a coverup by the White House, unidentified lawmakers told McClatchy Friday.

Rosenstein had briefed the full Senate on Thursday at an event that left several key questions unanswered, including what exactly Trump said to Rosenstein when he told him Comey would be fired, and to what degree congressional investigators will maintain access to witnesses and documents given Rosenstein's appointment of Robert Mueller III, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation director, as special counsel.

At the time, the White House distributed the memo written by Rosenstein, which was dated May 9. I dont think (Rosenstein) did a lot to bolster our confidence in him today.”.

Even if the Justice Department granted a waiver, the White House would consider using the ethics rule to create doubt about Mueller's ability to do his job fairly, the sources said. Trump has insisted at times that the decision was his alone, but he also has pointed to the “very strong” recommendation from Rosenstein.

"My memorandum is not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination", he said.

"I don't believe anyone in any way directed him", said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), "but in fact he wrote the memo". House Democrats demanded an investigation into Trump immediately after the memo was released. Rosenstein denounced that decision as “profoundly wrong and unfair.”.