Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday the firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating Russian meddling in the U.S. election, will not affect his country.
Putin, clad in hockey gear, was questioned rink-side in Sochi, Russia by CBS News reporter Elizabeth Palmer. She asked the Russian leader how President Donald Trump’s surprise sacking of Comey Tuesday evening would impact relations between the two countries.
“There will be no effect,” Putin said through a translator. “We have nothing to do with that. President Trump is acting in accordance with his competence and in accordance with his law and constitution.”
Russia vehemently denies any involvement in the U.S. elections, but the American intelligence community has determined Moscow meddled to help Trump win the presidency. Trump and his campaign also deny any knowing involvement in the influence effort, but Comey confirmed in congressional testimony March 20 that his agency was investigating possible collusion.
Trump shocked Washington Tuesday when he sent a letter to the FBI informing Comey he was fired. The former director was in Los Angeles for an agency event at the time and learned of his firing after seeing news of it on television. Trump said he fired the FBI head on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who reasoned in a letter to Trump that Comey mishandled the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Putin’s comments came just hours before Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Trump at the White House. No American reporters were allowed in the room, but Russian press published photos of the two men together.
Lavrov was accompanied to the White House by Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. Conversations between Kislyak and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn led to Flynn’s dismissal in February.
Lavrov met earlier Wednesday with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department, were the agenda included a Russian plan for a safe zone in Syria, North Korea, and Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. When asked about Comey, Lavrov feigned not having heard the former FBI director had been fired.
Both Democrats and Republicans have criticized Trump for the timing and reasoning behind Comey’s firing.