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How lawmakers are reacting to FBI director Comey’s firing

FBI director James Comey’s removal from office, which Trump wrote was “effective immediately,” surprised FBI and Justice Department officials.

A statement from White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the search for a new director will begin immediately.

Initial reactions to Comey’s firing tended to fall along party lines. Many Democrats called for a special prosecutor and questioned whether the president was attempting to influence the investigation into possible collusion between his presidential campaign and Russian officials. Republicans largely supported the president’s decision to oust Comey, saying that he was justified, because Comey’s statements about the Hillary Clinton email investigation had eroded trust with the agency. Yet, some bipartisian criticism did emerge.

Here’s a rundown of reactions from politicians on both sides of the aisle:

What Democrats said:

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, (D-Illinois)
Comey’s removal raises questions about “whether the FBI investigation of Russia’s interference in the last presidential campaign will continue,” Durbin said, along with what will happen to the investigations into Russia’s possible ties to Trump associates.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Schumer told reporters in a news conference that the Department of Justice should appoint a special prosecutor. Failing to do so would indicate Comey’s removal was part of a cover-up, he said.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) – Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee

In a statement, Warner called Trump’s actions ‘shocking’ in the midst of “an active counterintelligence investigation into improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

“President Trump has so far fired the acting Attorney General, nearly every U.S. attorney, and now the Director of the FBI. In addition, this President’s choice for Attorney General has been forced to recuse himself, and the National Security Advisor has resigned, as a result of undisclosed contacts with Russian officials,” Warner added.

He too, called for a special prosecutor. “Now more than ever, it is vital that our ongoing investigation is completed in a credible and bipartisan way.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) – Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

In a statement Wednesday, Feinstein called for the appointment of a special prosecutor and raised the question of “whether Director Comey was fired because of the Clinton email investigation—which could have happened in January—or whether he was fired because of the FBI’s investigation of Trump connections to Russia.”

She added, “If Director Comey was fired to stifle the FBI’s Russia investigation—and the timing of this action makes that a real possibility—that simply can’t be allowed to happen.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.)

Wyden said in a statement he’d long been a critic of Comey on a variety of topics, from his stance on torture to his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“But Donald Trump’s decision to fire him now, in the midst of an investigation into Trump associates and their ties to Russia, is outrageous,” he wrote.

He called for an immediate open hearing in which Comey would testify about the status of the Russia investigation at the time of his firing.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) – Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Schiff said he has “profound questions about whether the White House is brazenly interfering in a criminal matter.”

“While I had deep reservations with the way Director Comey handled the investigation into the Clinton emails which I made clear at the time and since, to take this action without addressing the profound conflict of interest of the President and Attorney General harkens back to a similarly tainted decision by President Nixon,” he said in a statement, referring to the former president’s firing of independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and subsequent resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, during the Watergate scandal.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)

Leahy called Trump’s decision “nothing less than Nixonian.”

“Given that the Attorney General supposedly recused himself from the Russia investigation, he should not have played any role in removing the lead investigator from his duties. Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein now has no choice but to appoint a Special Counsel,” he added in a statement.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.)
“This is Nixonian,” Casey said in a statement sent to the NewsHour, echoing calls for an independent prosecutor. “This investigation must be independent and thorough in order to uphold our nation’s system of justice.”

What Republicans said:

The Republican response runs the gamut in responses to Comey’s firing. Some lawmakers said the ouster was a logical conclusion after his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Others offered criticism of the president’s decision.

The president himself tweeted Wednesday morning, saying that Comey had “lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington” and that Republicans and Democrats alike “will be thanking me.”

Late Tuesday night, Trump had accused Schumer of acting “indignant” over Comey’s firing despite earlier doubts about his confidence in the FBI director.

Vice President Mike Pence

The vice president said Trump exhibited “strong and decisive leadership” in acting on Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s recommendation to dismiss Comey and said the president was in the process of evaluating replacements. “This was the right decision at the right time,” he said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) – Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee

Grassley supported Comey’s firing, saying in a statement that the former director’s handling of the probe into Clinton’s emails “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.”

Grassley added that the “effectiveness of the FBI depends upon the public trust and confidence. Unfortunately, this has clearly been lost.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

The Maine senator mirrored Grassley’s statement, saying in an interview on the PBS NewsHour that Comey’s firing was perhaps an “inevitable conclusion to decisions that were well-intentioned by Mr. Comey that he made last July in which he held a press conference to announce his decision not to pursue an indictment against Hillary Clinton.”

“He did so in a manner that was contrary to the policies of the deep Department of Justice, although I have no doubt that his intentions were good. This seemed to snowball in a way that led to the additional events last fall, and embroiled him in a political controversy that had continued to this day,” she added.

Kellyanne Conway – counselor to the president
Conway rebuked Sen. Schumer’s claim that the Comey’s firing was orchestrated as part of a cover-up. “He’s wrong,” she told CNN.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

The Arizona senator said Comey’s firing was “unfortunate,” saying that the former director was a “good man.” McCain acknowledged that Trump had the legal authority to remove Comey from office, adding that the president’s decision ought to pave the way for a special commission into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) – Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee

Burr released a statement saying that he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning” for 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,” the senator wrote. “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,” he added.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) – Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee

Rubio told The New York Times that he did not think Comey’s firing would impact the Senate inquiry into Russian interference in the presidential election. “I don’t think it will have an impact, certainly not on the Intelligence Committee’s work,” he said. On several lawmakers’ calls to appoint a special prosecutor, he added, “That’s somebody else’s decision to make.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)

Alexander said in a statement Wednesday, “It would have been easier to explain if the president had fired the FBI Director earlier when Senator Schumer and other Democrats said they’d lost confidence in Mr. Comey. Given the timing, it’s imperative that the Senate, through its confirmation process, makes certain that the new FBI Director is a person of unquestioned integrity who can lead the FBI and can continue investigating Russian involvement in our elections.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)

“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,” the senator tweeted.

MORE: Read President Trump’s full letter to Comey on his firing from the FBI

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