Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she worries the firestorm over the ongoing Russia investigations and fallout from President Donald Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey “is starting to erode people’s confidence in our institutions.”
When asked by PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff whether Trump’s dismissal of Comey — as the former director was investigating possible ties between the president’s 2016 campaign and Russia — crossed any ethical lines, Rice said he had the authority to relieve Comey from his duties, though such actions should be rare.
Democrats and some Republicans have raised concerns in the wake of Comey’s firing about the future of the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s possible interference in the 2016 elections. Some lawmakers, like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have called for an independent investigator to step in.
But “we have institutions that can handle even disruption of this kind,” Rice, who served under President George W. Bush, told Woodruff.
“I have great confidence that whoever is at the FBI is going to find career people who are dedicated to a thorough investigation” she added, describing Russia’s role in the elections as “a hostile act by a foreign power.”
At this point, we need to “settle down, step back and let the investigation move forward,” Rice said, adding the Senate Intelligence Committee, which also has a Russia probe underway, “has all of the tools it needs.”
“We need to find out what happened and let the facts fall where they do,” she said.
Rice also said she didn’t take issue with Trump hosting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the White House this week, a move that drew some criticism for its exclusion of U.S. press and its timing the day after Comey’s firing. Rice also it wasn’t abnormal for Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s controversial ambassador to the U.S., to accompany Lavrov on his visit to the White House.
“We have important things to talk to the Russians about despite their meddling in our elections,” Rice told Woodruff, saying she hoped the conversation included North Korea’s Kim John-Un’s long-range missile — which she said “can reach Alaska one day” — and ending the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
“President Putin received Secretary Tillerson when he was in Moscow. It would be reciprocal for the President to receive the Foreign Minister of Russia when he is in Washington,” Rice added.
Watch Judy Woodruff’s full interview with Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday’s episode of PBS NewsHour.