WASHINGTON — Democrats are insisting on an independent prosecutor to investigate possible links between the presidential campaign of US President Donnald Trump and Russia following the abrupt termination of FBI Director James Comey who was in the midst of a probe into possible collusion with Moscow.
“I’ve said it before and will again — we must have a special prosecutor to oversee the FBI’s Russia investigation. This cannot wait,” said Sen. Kamala Harris of California on Twitter.
Sen. Mike Warner of Virginia, the Vice Chairman of the Intel Committee, said it was “shocking” and “deeply troubling that the president has fired the FBI director during an active counterintelligence investigation into improper contacts between the Trump administation and Russia.”
Democrats also compared the move to President Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” decision to fire the independent special prosecutor overseeing the Watergate investigation, prompting the resignations of the Justice Department’s top two officials.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a former chair and current member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Trump’s firing of Comey was “nothing less than Nixonian.”
“The President has removed the sitting FBI Director in the midst of one of the most critical national security investigations in the history of our country — one that implicates senior officials in the Trump campaign and administration,” he said in a statement.
“There simply is no avoiding the compelling fact that this cascading situation demands the prompt appointment of an independent Special Counsel to pick up the pieces of these investigations,” he added.
“This is Nixonian,” Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., declared on Twitter. “Outrageous,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, calling for Comey to immediately be summoned to testify to Congress about the status of the Trump-Russia investigation
Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee said “our democracy is in danger,” pressing House Speaker Paul Ryan to appoint a bipartisan commission to investigate the Trump-Russia relationship.
Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, stood on the Senate floor and said he would await word from the White House on whether the investigation will continue.
Said Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania called on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel.
Trump has ridiculed the FBI investigation, as well as concurrent congressional investigations, as a “hoax” and has denied that his campaign was involved in Russia’s election meddling.
Trump called at least two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee minutes before the White House announced Comey’s dismissal on Tuesday.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California both said they received calls from Trump. Graham is heading the panel’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and Feinstein is the top Democrat on the committee.
Neither senator criticized the decision. Graham was supportive, saying that “given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well.”
Feinstein said Trump told her the FBI needed a change, and that the next director “must be strong and independent.