President Trump’s firing Tuesday of FBI Director James Comey for his obvious mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation is only hardening attitudes in the U.S. Senate, where the Democrats—and even some Republicans—aren’t falling for that explanation and want to keep probing his campaign’s ties with Russia.
Few in Washington seem to be taking the Justice Department’s explanation at face value, that the new Deputy Attorney General, Rod J. Rosenstein, made the case for it, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions agreed, and President Trump rubber-stamped it, according to letters released Tuesday by the White House. With Trump, there’s a pattern of firing people who get in his way or are no longer useful. That was true of top campaign staffers and with the acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, who, on the surface was fired in January after not inplementing his immigration enforcement orders, but on Monday told the Senate how she warned Trump’s advisors that his national security director had been lying about contacts with Russia and could be black-maiiled.
While it is unclear whether an independent counsel or a special prosecutor will be empowered in coming days, the comments by a range of senators suggest the firing by Trump and Sessions is not going to vanish quietly into the night.
Take a look at the range of comments given by senators in Capitol Hill interviews, their press releases and Twitter statements—as compiled by AlterNet. Only Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley seem to think this is just another day in the Senate. You would expect that from McConnell. The stage has been set for a major showdown.
1. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY: “The only way the American people can have faith in this investigation is for it to be led by a fearless independent special prosecutor. If Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein does not appoint an independent special prosecutor, every American will rightly suspect that the decision to fire Director Comey was part of a cover-up.”
2. Sen. Dick Durban, D-IL: “The termination and removal of James Comey as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation raises critical questions as to whether the FBI investigation of Russian interference in the last presidential election will continue, and whether the investigation into any collusion or involvement by the Trump campaign will also be investigated by the FBI. Any attempt to stop or undermine this FBI investigation would raise grave constitutional issues. We await clarification by the White House as soon as possible as to whether this investigation will continue, and whether it will have a credible lead so that we know it will have a just outcome.”
3. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR: “Donald Trump’s decision to fire him now, in the midst of an investigation into Trump associates and their ties to Russia, is outrageous. There can be no question that a fully independent special counsel must be appointed to lead this investigation. At this point, no one in Trump’s chain of command can be trusted to carry out an impartial investigation.”
4. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD: “There is little that President Trump does anymore that surprises me, but that he would fire the lead investigator into collusion between Russia and Trump campaign officials is beyond the pale—even for him. This is the biggest evidence to date of why we need an independent commission to investigate Russia’s interference in our election. We also need a special prosecutor to complete the ongoing criminal probe, now that the president has undermined the integrity of the FBI’s investigation.”
5. Sen. Angus King, I-ME: “Based on what I know, it appears to me that the firing was a solution in search of a rationale. To dismiss Director Comey based on actions he took last year, when the president has been in office for more than five months, just doesn’t add up and raises more questions than answers… I believe it is not only appropriate but urgently necessary to appoint a Special Counsel to carry forward the investigation. Meanwhile, I expect the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation to continue to proceed in a non-partisan manner and follow the facts wherever they lead.”
6. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY: “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.”
7. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-IO: “Over the course of the last several months, Director Comey’s decisions on controversial matters have prompted concern from across the political spectrum and from career law enforcement experts. The handling of the Clinton email investigation is a clear example of how Comey’s decisions have called into question the trust and political independence of the FBI. In my efforts to get answers, the FBI, under Comey’s leadership, has been slow or failed to provide information that Comey himself pledged to provide. The effectiveness of the FBI depends upon the public trust and confidence. Unfortunately, this has clearly been lost.”
8. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-NC: “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination. I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee. In my interactions with the Director and with the Bureau under his leadership, he and the FBI have always been straightforward with our committee. Director Comey has been more forthcoming with information than any FBI Director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intelligence committees. His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and the nation.”