'This is Nixonian' vs. 'a fresh start': Congress reacts to Trump's firing of Comey

FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey Tuesday sent shockwaves through Washington, and members of Congress wasted no time voicing their opinions on the reasoning and timing behind the ousting of the man whose agency is investigating whether Trump's campaign was involved in Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

DNC Vice Chair Keith Ellison of Minnesota said in a statement, “We are witnessing a Constitutional crisis unfold before our very eyes,” while former vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said in a pair of tweets, "Trump firing Comey shows how frightened the Admin is over Russia investigation ... Comey firing part of a growing pattern by White House to cover-up the truth."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., held a press conference Tuesday evening, during which he said he had told Trump over the phone he was making "a big mistake."

"The first question the administration has to answer is why now?" Schumer remarked.

He said later on during the press conference, "Given the way the president fired Director Comey, any person who he appoints to lead the Russia investigation will be concerned that he or she will meet the same fate as Director Comey if they run afoul of the administration."

Republicans' positions varied. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he believes "a fresh start" will be good for the country and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., acknowledged the timing of Comey's termination would "raise questions" and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he was "disappointed" in Trump's decision.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had not released a statement on Comey's firing as of this writing.

Below is a collection of reactions from senators and representatives:

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.

"This is Nixonian. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein must immediately appoint a special counsel to continue the Trump/Russia investigation. On March 20th Director Comey said, “I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts.” This investigation must be independent and thorough in order to uphold our nation’s system of justice."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine

“Today’s announcement is likely the inevitable conclusion of Director Comey’s decision last July to bypass the longstanding protocols of the Justice Department and publicly announce the reasons he had decided not to recommend an indictment of Hillary Clinton and to offer his personal views of Mrs. Clinton’s actions.
“That decision, while well-intentioned, embroiled Director Comey into political controversies that unfortunately continued to this day.
“Any suggestion that today’s announcement is somehow an effort to stop the FBI's investigation of Russia’s attempt to influence the election last fall is misplaced. The President did not fire the entire FBI; he fired the director. I have every confidence that the FBI will continue to pursue its investigation. In addition, I am certain that the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which I serve, will continue its own bipartisan investigation and will follow the evidence wherever it leads.
“I hope that the next FBI Director will have the same kind of integrity, intelligence, and determination that Mr. Comey exhibited, but perhaps better judgment on when it is appropriate to comment publicly on the results of an investigation.”

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

"While the case for removal of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey laid out by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein was thorough, his removal at this particular time will raise questions. It is essential that ongoing investigations are fulsome and free of political interference until their completion, and it is imperative that President Trump nominate a well-respected and qualified individual to lead the bureau at this critical time."

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.

"We are witnessing a Constitutional crisis unfold before our very eyes. On March 20, FBI Director James Comey confirmed under oath that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign for its involvement with Russian officials to influence our election. Today, President Trump fired him. The next FBI Director appointed by President Trump will not have the independence or confidence of the American people to continue this investigation. In order to preserve the integrity of the investigation and the government, we need a special prosecutor to probe the possible collusion between Donald Trump's campaign and Russian government officials."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

"I know this was a difficult decision for all concerned. I appreciate Director Comey’s service to our nation in a variety of roles. Given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well. I encourage the President to select the most qualified professional available who will serve our nation’s interests."

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.

“It’s outrageous to see a sitting President fire the FBI director during an active investigation into potential collusion with a foreign government. The decision to fire James Comey shows how frightened the Administration is over the Russia investigation. The White House decision to seek Attorney General Sessions' recommendation also raises questions about whether he has fully recused himself from the Russia investigation. This adds to a disturbing pattern by the White House to cover up the truth, which draws inescapable comparisons to the Nixon era. A special prosecutor that is completely independent and whose mandate is not directed by the Attorney General is needed to get to the bottom of whether the Trump campaign, transition team, or Administration colluded with the Russian government.”

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine

"Based on what I know, it appears to me that the firing of the FBI Director was a solution in search of a rationale. To dismiss Director Comey based on actions he took last year, when the President has been in office for more than five months, just doesn't add up and raises more questions than answers. Furthermore, his dismissal is especially troubling given that there is an ongoing FBI investigation into contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. His firing undermines confidence in the credibility of that process, and to restore it - both for me and for the American people - I believe it is not only appropriate, but urgently necessary to appoint a Special Counsel to carry forward the investigation. Meanwhile, I expect the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation to continue to proceed in a nonpartisan manner and follow the facts wherever they lead."

Sen John McCain, R-Ariz.

“While the President has the legal authority to remove the Director of the FBI, I am disappointed in the President's decision to remove James Comey from office. James Comey is a man of honor and integrity, and he has led the FBI well in extraordinary circumstances. I have long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia's interference in the 2016 election. The president's decision to remove the FBI Director only confirms the need and the urgency of such a committee.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

"President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey is part of a deeply troubling pattern. First, he fired Sally Yates. Then Preet Bahara, now James Comey. The three people investigating Trump are the three people he fired; this doesn't seem like an accident. We must have a special prosecutor. If not, every American will rightly suspect that President Trump's decision to fire Director Comey was part of a cover-up."

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

“While the White House is under investigation by the FBI, firing the head of the FBI raises massive questions, and the Senate should get to the bottom of it. America needs to have confidence that the Department of Justice will fill its traditional role of following the facts fearlessly, and prosecuting whomever has violated the law no matter the office they hold."

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