President Donald Trump made waves on Tuesday as the White House announced he had suddenly fired FBI Director James Comey, immediately sparking an intense flurry of reactions across the political world.
Comey’s termination is on the heels of the FBI clarifying inaccuracies in a passionate and dramatic testimony Comey had given the week prior over his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal during her time as secretary of state. Trump said the recommendation came from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House officials reported that the revelation of Comey’s inaccurate testimony was the final straw that drove Trump’s decision.
But as head of the FBI, Comey had been tasked with leading the investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and possible interference in the 2016 presidential election — sparking speculation, especially among Democrats, that the Trump administration sought to squash that investigation.
The former Democratic vice presidential nominee, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, floated the idea in a series of tweets, saying the termination proved “how frightened the Admin is over Russia investigation,” arguing that it was “part of a growing pattern by White House to cover-up the truth.”
Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer quickly called for an independent investigator to take over the Russia probe.
“This is part of a deeply troubling pattern from the Trump administration,” the Democratic leader said in a press conference shortly after the announcement. “This does not seem to be a coincidence.”
Schumer added that “every American will rightly suspect that the decision to fire Director Comey was part of a coverup,” if the Justice Department did not assign a special prosecutor. “But does anyone seriously believe @realDonaldTrump fired the top person investigating his ties to Russia because he was unfair to Hillary?” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweeted in response, echoing Schumer’s calls for a special prosecutor.
“We are in a full-fledged constitutional crisis,” Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, also a Democrat, said.
Democrats took a particularly critical tone of the decision, but reactions did not fall exclusively along party lines. While some Republicans defended the move, noting that Comey’s behavior had been called into question before and that the FBI director serves at the pleasure of the president, others questioned the decision.
“I have long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election,” Sen. John McCain said of the move. “The president’s decision to remove the FBI director only confirms the need and the urgency for such a committee.”
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, said he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning” of the termination.
FBI directors typically serve 10-year teams. Comey served in his role for three.