WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP/WAVY) — President Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday, dramatically ousting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the midst of an FBI investigation into whether Trump’s campaign had ties to Russia’s election meddling.
The firing of an FBI director is exceedingly rare.
Congressman A. Donald McEachin compared the move to President Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” decision to fire the independent special prosecutor overseeing the Watergate investigation, prompting the resignations of the Justice Department’s top two officials.
In an eerie reprisal of the so-called Saturday Night Massacre of the Nixon era, President Trump has today fired the individual responsible for investigating his potentially criminal interactions with Russia. The only thing perhaps more absurd than firing a man he and Attorney General Sessions just recently termed ‘gutsy’ is the reason the president gave. He cited Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Ms. Clinton’s emails, the same emails about which Director Comey’s October pronouncements are considered by some to have cost her the election, the same election that Mr. Trump won while praising Mr. Comey.
Now, six months later, when, frankly, the emails matter not at all, and the subject has turned to the president’s potential transgressions, Mr. Trump removes the person doing the investigating while citing as the cause Comey’s treatment of the president’s vanquished rival.
You can’t make this stuff up, but what I do know is that we must have an independent investigation. Russia’s actions were a direct attack on our democracy, an unprecedented and completely unacceptable effort to shape our politics. The president has never even acknowledged Russia as an aggressor, and now his actions can only be seen as an attempt to shut down this crucial avenue of legitimate investigation.”
Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) responded with the following statement:
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.”
Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) echoed Kaine’s concern, saying that Comey’s termination “demands the appointment of a special counsel.”
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) said on Twitter that he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination.” He continued in a statement:
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. 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.”
Rep. Rob Wittman released the following statement about Comey’s firing:
This decision is the president’s prerogative. It was made following an investigation and recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General, who concluded that Mr. Comey could no longer function effectively as director. I trust that the recommendation was made in good faith and with the nation’s best interest in mind. The investigations now underway will continue and we must let those committees do their work. Most importantly, the FBI now needs a new leader that that will command the respect of the American people and I hope the Senate moves swiftly with the nomination process.”
Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) said in a statement:
Throughout his career, Director Comey has served the nation with distinction, and I have found him to be professional and responsive during my interactions with him. While Director Comey has faced criticism from both Republican and Democratic elected officials, it is my belief he attempted to lead the FBI to the best of his ability given the difficult circumstances before him and the hyperpartisan political climate that exists in Washington.”
Congressman Bobby Scott issued the following statement on Comey’s termination:
The president’s firing of FBI Director Comey is alarming; especially in light of the bureau’s ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. The Department of Justice must immediately appoint a special prosecutor to ensure an independent and thorough investigation of these allegations. Additionally, Congress must establish a non-partisan commission to further investigate Russia’s interference with the 2016 presidential election. These actions will safeguard any investigation from political interference by either the President or Congress.”
Congressman Scott Taylor released a statement Wednesday expressing that he was “troubled” by the timing of Comey’s dismissal.
It is certainly the case that a president needs to have confidence in, and has the legal authority to remove, the FBI Director as they serve at the pleasure of the President. Having said that, I am troubled by the timing of the Director’s dismissal. Director Comey made missteps, but if they were significant enough for his dismissal, it should have happened months ago. Democrats should avoid further politicizing this firing as they were calling for Comey’s dismissal as well and there has been zero evidence of collusion with Russia. My concern lies with the trust of the American people and the ability to have an objective analysis on Russian involvement in our election and impartial oversight over ongoing investigations. There is now a need to regain not just the President’s confidence in senior leadership at the FBI, but the public’s confidence in the process as well. The President has a duty to put forth an independent and non-political leader at the FBI to achieve the aforementioned goals. Anything less is unacceptable and may be cause for a select committee or special prosecutor.”
Comey, 56, was nominated by President Barack Obama for the FBI post in 2013.
10 On Your Side will update this story as more statements are made. Stay with WAVY.com for more as it becomes available.