WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump's abrupt dismissal of FBI director James Comey has roiled Washington and deepened the sense of crisis, as Republican leaders came to the President's defence, and Mr Trump lashed out at Democrats and other critics, calling them hypocrites.
On Capitol Hill, at least half a dozen Republicans broke with their leadership to express concern or dismay about the firing of Mr Comey, who was four years into a decade-long appointment as the Federal Bureau of Investigation's director.
Still, they stopped well short of joining the Democrats' call for a special prosecutor to lead the continuing investigation of Russian contacts with Mr Trump's aides.
At the White House, Mr Trump shrugged off accusations of presidential interference in a counterintelligence investigation.
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He hosted a surreal and awkwardly timed meeting in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Mr Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. Mr Kislyak's private meetings with Mr Trump's aides are a key part of the sprawling investigation.
Veteran agents and other FBI employees described a dark mood throughout the bureau, where morale was already low from months of being pummelled over duelling investigations surrounding last year's presidential election .
Mr Trump was considering a visit to the FBI headquarters in Washington today as a show of his commitment to the bureau, an official said, although he is not expected to discuss the Russia investigation.
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