US President Donald Trump raised the firing of the FBI director in a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister to explain why he had been unable to find areas of cooperation with Moscow, two top administration officials say.
"The gist of the conversation was that the President feels as if he is hamstrung in his ability to work with Russia to find areas of cooperation because this has been obviously so much in the news," National Security Adviser HR McMaster said on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos program.
On the Fox News Sunday show, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Mr Trump was also trying to convey to the Russians that he was "not going to be distracted by all these issues at home that affect us domestically".
Mr Tillerson and Mr McMaster were present at the May 10 meeting between Mr Trump and Russian officials during which he discussed his firing of James Comey, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The New York Times, citing officials familiar with an internal White House summary of the meeting, reported that Mr Trump referred to Mr Comey as a "nut job" and said his removal would relieve "great pressure" coming from the agency's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Former FBI chief Robert Mueller was named special counsel last week to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election and possible collusion between Mr Trump's campaign and Moscow.
The controversy has shadowed the first foreign trip by Mr Trump, who was in Riyadh on the first leg of a nine-day trip that includes Israel, the Vatican, a NATO meeting in Brussels and the Group of Seven summit in Sicily.
Mr Comey is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in two weeks.