Erica R. Hendry
Erica R. Hendry
Leave your feedback
In the hours following President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey, Capitol Hill was a roller coaster of serious and potentially far-reaching reactions from lawmakers about how best to move forward.
In the U.S. Senate, there were at least a half-dozen major developments by 11 a.m. Some Republicans were troubled, while others were less so. Some Democrats were demanding a special prosecutor as others were implying the attorney general should step down.
Here is a look, by rough timeline, at how the scene played out.
(Democratic) senators in their seats
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (C) condemns the firing of FBI Director James Comey in a speech on the floor of the Senate in this video grab taken on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2017. U.S. Senate TV/Handout via Reuters.
At 9:30 am, the Senate opened with dramatic optics. The Democratic (left) side of the Senate chamber was a packed set of seats – nearly every member there. Across the aisle, the Republican section was mostly empty, dotted with nine of 52 of the party’s members. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer gave dueling speeches.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Today, we will no doubt hear calls for a new investigation which could only serve to impede the current work being done to not only discover what the Russians may have done, but also to let this body and the national security community to develop the countermeasures and warfighting doctrine to see that it doesn’t occur again… Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein was just confirmed on a bipartisan basis — 94 to 6 — and that sort of fair consideration should continue when the Senate receives an FBI Director nominee.”
Republicans (very) divided in the halls
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, is interviewed in the Capitol about the firing of former FBI director James Comey on May 10, 2017. Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Just more than an hour later, the Senate held its first series of votes. The small hallway that is senators’ most direct path to the elevators is crammed with so many reporters and members that several senators cannot get on.
Republicans exited the session divided into camps.
Democrats are incredibly united
UNITED STATES – MAY 10: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is interviewed in the senate subway of the Capitol after a meeting of Senate Democrats on May 10, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Thirty minutes later, Democratic senators return to the Capitol for a special meeting of their conference. As they exit, reporters again crowd. This time, most Democrats said little. But what they said was significant.
Pence is defending Trump on the Hill
UNITED STATES – MAY 10: Vice President Mike Pence leaves the Senate chamber after a vote in the Capitol on May 10, 2017. Pence said President Trump made the right decision to fire former FBI director James Comey. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
By 11 a.m. EST the vice president was on Capitol Hill explaining the decision to fire the head of the FBI as the agency needed “a fresh start.”
In part, Pence blamed Comey for the chaos surrounding an administration that “is moving past the difficult politics of the last year that has swirled around Director Comey’s leadership.”
Trump “provided strong leadership to act” according to Pence, who also noted the decision on who will replace Comey will “take the time necessary to find an individual of great experience and great integrity.”
Other Republicans echoed their confidence in Trump — and in a continuing investigation into Russia. Sen. John Cornyn, R – Texas, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican and a Trump confidant, spoke briefly to reporters in a corner hallway of the Capitol to defend the president.
“It won’t have any impact except perhaps intensifying the Russia investigations,” Cornyn said, assuring reporters an investigation is continuing in some undisrupted fashion.
We explore here.
READ MORE: How lawmakers are reacting to FBI director Comey’s firing
Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
Courtney Norris is a deputy senior producer of national affairs for the NewsHour. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @courtneyknorris
Erica R. Hendry is the managing editor for digital at PBS NewsHour.
Support Provided By:
Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.
Additional Support Provided By: