Republicans Are Calling For Independent Investigations Into Russia After Trump Fired The FBI Director
A Republican congressman said he is looking into legislation that would establish an independent commission, joining a handful of other GOP lawmakers critical of Trump's firing of James Comey.
President Donald Trump's unexpected decision to fire FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday prompted several Republicans in Congress to consider creating independent investigations into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election, joining a common talking point among Democrats.
Rep. Justin Amash, a House Republican, said on Twitter he is reviewing legislation that would establish an independent commission in Congress to look into Russian influence.
One of the options he's considering is legislation from Democratic Reps. Eric Swalwell and Elijah Cummings, he told BuzzFeed News. The bill would create a nonpartisan, independent commission to investigate foreign influence in the 2016 election, but it has so far failed to pick up much traction with Republicans. North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones is the only Republican who has signed on to the bill.
"I'm open to working with any Republican to create an independent commission to get to the bottom of what happened and make sure we are never attacked again," Swalwell told BuzzFeed News.
Republican Sen. John McCain has focused on establishing a select committee — which would be run within Congress — and has also said he could support an outside investigation, along the lines of what Swalwell and Cummings have proposed.
"I have long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia's interference in the 2016 election," McCain said in a statement. "The president's decision to remove the FBI director only confirms the need and the urgency for such a committee."
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, another House Republican, called the decision to fire Comey "extraordinary" in a statement and also discussed "the need for Congress to establish a Select Committee with full investigatory powers to thoroughly examine this matter.”
"Congress and the American people need a transparent explanation as to how this decision was reached and why it was executed at this time," he said.
Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock, a former FBI public affairs director, also called for an "independent investigation."
"Both Democrats and Republicans attacked the FBI Director at various times for various reasons and called for his ouster," Comstock said in a statement tweeted late Tuesday night. "However, I can't defend or explain tonight's actions or timing of the firing of FBI Director James Comey."
"The FBI investigation into the Russian impact on the 2016 election must continue," she added. "There must be an independent investigation that the American people can trust."
On Wednesday, Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen said the circumstances surrounding Comey's firing during the ongoing investigation into Russia warrented an independent investigation. Republican Rep. Pat Tiberi of Ohio said in a statement that he would support a special prosecutor.
Most lawmakers said they had no warning that Comey would be fired, and Democrats questioned Trump's motives.
In a memo, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Comey had mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. But Democrats pointed to the FBI's ongoing investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election as the reason behind the firing.
"Trump firing Comey shows how frightened the Admin is over Russia investigation," Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton's 2016 running mate, said in a tweet.
Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania put it in starker terms.
"This is Nixonian," he tweeted. "Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein must immediately appoint a special prosecutor to continue the Trump/Russia investigation."
Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, meanwhile, said the country is in a "full-fledged constitutional crisis."
In a press conference, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Rosenstein could no longer put off appointing a special prosecutor.
"America depends on you to restore faith in our criminal justice system, which is going to be badly shattered after the administration's actions today," Schumer said.
He called Comey's firing part of a "deeply troubling pattern" for the Trump administration, citing the firings of US attorney Preet Bharara and Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.
"Are people going to suspect a cover-up? Absolutely," Schumer said.
Dozens of Democrats in Congress have called for either a special prosecutor or another form of independent investigation.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein — the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee — said that she had received a call from Trump in advance of Comey's firing, notifying her of the decision. "The next FBI Director must be strong and independent and will receive a fair hearing in the Judiciary Committee," she said in a statement.
The director of the FBI is nominated by the president and requires confirmation by the Senate. The White House has not announced who the administration will pick to replace Comey.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who also sits on the Judiciary Committee, which would hold confirmation hearings for Comey's replacement, said the FBI director's firing could have dire consequences for the Russia investigation and called for a special prosecutor. "It's really uncertain now. I mean, the FBI investigation could be terminated at this point," he said.
"I don't think there's any alternative at this point [than appointing a special prosecutor]," Durbin added. "We worry — I worry — that they'll refuse the special prosecutor and we'll never hear again from the FBI investigation."
In general, Republican reaction to Trump's decision has been mixed, with some GOP lawmakers praising Trump's action, and others expressing concerns about the circumstances of Comey's termination.
"Given the recent controversies surrounding the Director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well," Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina tweeted.
A few hours after the news broke, Sen. Jeff Flake tweeted that he had been trying to "find an acceptable rationale for the timing," but he could not.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, echoing about a dozen other Republican leaders, said he was "extremely troubled by the circumstances surrounding the dismissal," and while he did not call for an independent review he demanded "full and fair investigations" into Russian election meddling.
Republican Sen. Richard Burr said he was concerned over the "timing and reasoning," of the decision, while Sen. James Lankford said that the "American people need clarity and deserve an explanation for his immediate firing."
Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a frequent critic of Trump during the campaign, questioned the surprise timing "in the midst of a crisis of public trust that goes well beyond who you voted for."