Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey Tuesday fueled questions about his decision and its possible connection to the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Russian election interference. Despite the national political fallout from Trump’s decision, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in Washington Wednesday to meet with Trump, seemed to sarcastically tell a reporter that he was unaware Comey had been fired.
When Lavrov and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson emerged Wednesday morning for a brief photo op, Tillerson welcomed Lavrov and thanked the Russian diplomat for traveling to Washington as they continued dialogue “on a very broad range of topics.”
But in response to a shouted question from NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell asking if Comey’s firing “cast a shadow over your talks,” Lavrov responded: “Was he fired? You are kidding. You are kidding.”
The response — and Lavrov’s dismissive shrug and eye-roll before walking away with Tillerson — was widely interpreted as mockery.
Comey, before his abrupt dismissal from the federal agency, was leading an investigation into possible connections between Trump’s advisers on his campaign and possible Russian interference in the presidential election. Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, suggested that Comey’s firing was connected to the Russia investigation, though the Department of Justice said their recommendation to terminate was based on Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe.
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, had already acknowledged being aware of Comey’s firing and suggested it was “the United States’ internal affair.”
“We hope that it will not affect” relations with Russia, Peskov said, according to a report from Russia's TASS news agency. “That’s the U.S. president’s independent decision, which has nothing to do and should have nothing to do with Russia.”
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs seems to acknowledge Lavrov’s comments were a joke later Wednesday morning, tweeting a clip of the exchange on its official account.
Lavrov’s trip to Washington is his first since 2013, according to the Wall Street Journal. He is expected to discuss the Syrian conflict during his visit.