Even top Republican lawmakers, many of whom have voted to support President Donald Trump‘s policies and appointments, were left stunned by Trump’s decision to fire FBI director James Comey on Tuesday. They used words like “troubled,” “disappointed” and even “bizarre” to describe Trump’s firing of the man leading an investigation into the Trump campaign for possible collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential election.
Many of the Republicans who were quick to respond joined the call for a special, independent investigation into Russia’s interference with the election. That includes Arizona Senator John McCain.
In his statement, McCain said he was “disappointed” by the firing.
“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.”
McCain’s colleague from Arizona, Senator Jeff Flake, wrote that he can’t come up with an “acceptable rationale for the timing” of Comey’s firing.
North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter that he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning for Director Comey’s termination.” Burr wrote:
I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination. I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order. His dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee. In my interactions w/ the Director and w/ the Bureau under his leadership, he & the FBI have always been straightforward with our Committee. Dir. Comey has been more forthcoming w/ information than any FBI Director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intel committees. His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and the nation.
Rep. Justin Amash, a member of the House Freedom Caucus that Trump once criticized for derailing the first attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare, wrote that he is “reviewing” legislation to establish and independent investigation. He tweeted that the “second paragraph of this letter is bizarre.”
Amash was referring to the part of Trump’s termination letter to Comey, in which Trump wrote that Comey told Trump “on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation.”
Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who supported Trump during the campaign, tweeted that the firing “at this particular time will raise questions.”
Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma wrote that it was “unfortunate that over the past year the Director had lost the trust of so many people on both sides of the aisle.”
Maine Senator Susan Collins supported Trump’s decision to fire Comey based on his actions during the Hillary Clinton email investigation. She said that any suggestion that Trump is firing Comey now to derail the Russian investigation is “misplaced.” Here’s Collins’ statement:
“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.”
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham also supported the decision to give the FBI a “fresh start.” He tweeted:
Given the recent controversies surrounding the Director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well. I know this was a difficult decision for all concerned. I appreciate Director Comey’s service to our nation in a variety of roles. I encourage the President to select the most qualified professional available who will serve our nations interests.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas simply tweeted “Ds were against Comey before they were for him.”
Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supported Trump’s decision.
“Over the course of the last several months, Director Comey’s decisions on controversial matters have prompted concern from across the political spectrum and from career law enforcement experts.
“The handling of the Clinton email investigation 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.
“The effectiveness of the FBI depends upon the public trust and confidence. Unfortunately, this has clearly been lost.
“The FBI Director serves at the pleasure of the president. Under these circumstances, President Trump accepted the recommendation of the Justice Department that the Director lacked the confidence needed to carry out his important duties.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t give his thoughts on the firing, just noting how important it was for the Senate to confirm Trump’s replacement for Comey.
“Once the Senate receives a nomination, we look forward to a full, fair, and timely confirmation process to fill the Director position. This is a critical role that is especially important as America faces serious threats at home and abroad.”
Senator Ben Sasse was among the Republicans critical of Trump’s decision.
Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia wrote that she couldn’t “explain or defend” Trump’s decision. She called for an independent investigation into Russia.
“Both Democrats and Republicans attacked the FBI Director at various times for various reasons and called for his ouster. 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. There must be an independent investigation that the American people can trust.”