President Donald Trump earned criticism and questions after last night’s surprise firing of FBI Director James Comey. Republican reactions were more mixed than those coming from political commentators and Democrats, but still included calls for an independent investigation.
John McCain used the occasion to continue his calls for a special prosecutor. “While the President has the legal authority to remove the Director of the FBI, I am disappointed in the President’s decision to remove James Comey from office. James Comey is a man of honor and integrity, and he has led the FBI well in extraordinary circumstances,” said McCain. “I have long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The president’s decision to remove the FBI Director only confirms the need and the urgency of such a committee.”
Likewise, Richard Burr expressed concern about the president’s action and lauded Comey. “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination,” said the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
In my interactions w/ the Director and w/ the Bureau under his leadership, he & the FBI have always been straightforward with our Committee.
— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) May 9, 2017
Representative Carlos Curbelo said, “Today’s extraordinary decision raises many questions all of which must be answered. Congress and the American people need a transparent explanation as to how this decision was reached and why it was executed at this time. It is critical that the FBI can continue all of its pending work with independence and integrity – especially the investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to influence our last election and undermine American democracy. Today I reiterate the need for Congress to establish a Select Committee with full investigatory powers to thoroughly examine this matter.”
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Even more hardcore conservatives called Trump’s actions into question.
Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, a member of the Freedom Caucus, called for an independent commission as well.
My staff and I are reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia. The second paragraph of this letter is bizarre. https://t.co/wXeDtVIQiP
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 9, 2017
The timing of the firing clearly bothered many Republicans. Senator Bob Corker said, “While the case for removal of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey laid out by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein was thorough, his removal at this particular time will raise questions. It is essential that ongoing investigations are fulsome and free of political interference until their completion, and it is imperative that President Trump nominate a well-respected and qualified individual to lead the bureau at this critical time.”
Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and Representative Ben Sasse were baffled by the timing as well.
I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing. I just can’t do it.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) May 10, 2017
my statement on Comey firing pic.twitter.com/Mc4o4pnQav
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) May 10, 2017
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But Trump still has his supporters. Senator John Cornyn said, “Obviously he’s been the center of controversy both among Democrats and Republicans at different times. … It sounds to me from reading the president’s letter that he lost confidence in him.” On Twitter, he was quick to point out that Democrats have been calling for Comey’s ouster since his precedent-violating comments on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.
Ds were against Comey before they were for him.
— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn) May 10, 2017
Similarly, Senator Susan Collins justified Trump’s actions, saying, “[The Clinton case] embroiled Director Comey into political controversies that unfortunately continued to this day.” She also called out allegations that the firing was done to stop the Russia investigation. “The president did not fire the entire FBI. He fired the director of the FBI. And any suggestion that this is somehow going to stop the FBI’s investigation of the attempts by the Russians to influence the elections last fall is really patently absurd,” Collins said.
Trump found support in the House as well as the Senate.
Representative Bob Goodlatte said, “The FBI is the premier law enforcement agency in the world and it is critical to have a director who holds the trust of the American people. It is clearly the President’s prerogative to remove the FBI Director, as was recommended by the top two officials at the Department of Justice.”
Other members of the House issued statements and tweets with similar sentiments.
President Trump made the right decision to relieve FBI Director James Comey of his duties.
— Ron DeSantis (@RepDeSantis) May 9, 2017
Director Comey lost the trust of both Rs and Ds. Our next FBI Director must be non-partisan and widely respected.
— Jim Banks (@RepJimBanks) May 9, 2017
Many Republicans chose to stay out of the fray, focusing their comments on the process of choosing a new FBI director. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the lead on this course of action, saying, “Once the Senate receives a nomination, we look forward to a full, fair, and timely confirmation process to fill the Director position. This is a critical role that is especially important as America faces serious threats at home and abroad.”
Trump critic Lindsay Graham choose the same course. “Given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well. I encourage the President to select the most qualified professional available who will serve our nation’s interests,” said the senator.
It remains to be seen whether there are sufficient Republican critics after Trump’s actions to get the investigation Democrats have been clamoring for.