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Rep. Swalwell: Comey firing amid Russia probe ‘disturbing for our democracy’

May 9, 2017 at 6:35 PM EDT
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his concerns about the Trump administration’s firing of FBI James Comey and its potential consequences for the investigations into possible connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian efforts to influence the U.S. election.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And now we get a Democratic perspective.

We’re joined on the telephone by Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman Swalwell, your reaction to the news that President Trump has fired the director of the FBI, James Comey?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL, D-Calif.: Good evening. Judy.

This is an abuse of power unlike anything we have seen in our country since President Nixon. I worry right now for our democracy. And I hope that Republicans join me in making sure that this investigation into the president doesn’t go away, as it seems like he wishes it would.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, let me just cite you a little of what I just heard from Senator Susan Collins, who has been outspoken at times in her disagreement with President Trump on different issues.

But, in this instance, she said in so many words that she believes the FBI director left himself open when he violated protocol, in essence, violated the pattern of behavior, practice at the FBI, and went public last summer with the investigation that the FBI had conducted into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server, in saying that the FBI wouldn’t prosecute, and yes, he had found that they conducted the investigation poorly, but there would be no prosecution.

And he talked about the investigation.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL: Judy, it’s so interesting to hear Republicans defend Hillary Clinton now.

And that’s — a reason that may have been believable when Donald Trump took office on January 20. But since Donald Trump took office, the FBI director has told Congress and the American people that the president’s campaign is under a criminal and counterintelligence investigation.

So, this is nothing more than taking the headrest off the court, and people should see it exactly as that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But the president does have the right, the authority to remove the FBI director. Is that not right?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL: He does.

And the Senate, of course, will be, you know, a part of a future FBI director’s confirmation. However, past presidents have shown restraint in removing FBI directors when their administrations were under investigation.

And the fact that this president could not demonstrate that, I think, says a lot about how fearful he is about where this FBI director was going.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, again, to the point that both the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, made in the letter he put out and this — and, again, I was just quoting, poorly quoting Senator Susan Collins — their point is that what the FBI director did violated longstanding principles and, therefore, he left himself open for this sort of judgment.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL: And, again, Judy, that is something that we didn’t hear from any Republican when the FBI director made those statements or sent that letter.

So, for that to be the reason now, again, it is too late. The FBI director is in the middle of an investigation into the president’s campaign, and to pull him off this investigation is very, very disturbing for our democracy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, Congressman — we’re talking with Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, a Democrat of California — what do you expect will happen next?

Have you have had a chance to talk to other members of Congress about what the next steps are here?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL: No.

And, right now, Judy, we’re piecing all of this together to see what we can do to preserve the integrity of the FBI’s investigation and also make sure that our own House investigation is one that is still independent, credible, and makes progress.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and that — and I do want to ask you about that just quickly, because I asked Susan — Senator Collins about whether she had confidence that the Justice Department, the FBI could continue to carry out the investigation into possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. She said she does have that confidence.

What would you answer be?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL: Well, right now, the attorney general is recused on any Russian investigation. Now we are without an FBI director, so I am very, very worried that the president’s desire to see this investigation, which he called a hoax just yesterday on Twitter, is, He’s going to try and bury it.

And we must do everything we can to keep light shining on what happened with Russia’s interference and make sure any U.S. persons who were involved are held accountable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Representative Eric Swalwell of California, member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman, thank you very much for talking with us.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL: My pleasure.

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