McConnell defends Comey firing as Schumer calls for special prosecutor
Amid Democratic calls for a special prosecutor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says a new investigation of Russia meddling could only serve to impede the current probes under way.
McConnell spoke on the Senate floor as Democratic senators gathered to try to pressure the GOP over President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.
McConnell didn’t give his own view on Trump’s decision to fire Comey. But he noted that Democrats had repeatedly criticized Comey in the past, and had called for his removal.
Following McConnell on the floor, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for a special prosecutor.
But McConnell said: “Today we'll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation which could only serve to impede the current work being done.”
The Senate and House intelligence committees are investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election and Russian ties to the Trump campaign.
Sen. Lindsey Graham says he doesn’t believe a special prosecutor should be considered unless the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible connections to Russia becomes a criminal matter.
It’s now a counterintelligence investigation.
The South Carolina Republican says if it becomes “a criminal investigation where the Trump campaign may be exposed to criminal charges, then that’s the time to have that conversation.”
Graham says he’s confident the FBI’s investigation won’t be hampered by Trump’s firing of Comey.
Trump said Wednesday that Comey “was not doing a good job.” It was Trump’s first public remarks about his firing Tuesday of the FBI chief.
Trump briefly spoke to reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday after a closed meeting with Russia’s foreign minister.
Vice President Mike Pence says the “president made the right decision at the right time.” He said Comey’s firing was not related to the investigation into possible contacts between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.
Pence says the administration is now looking forward to finding someone to lead the law enforcement agency.
GOP Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says there’s no need for a special prosecutor. Burr says his committee has the jurisdiction and responsibility to continue its Russia investigation and “we are going to do that.”
However Burr reiterated questions about President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. “The timing of this and the reasoning for it doesn’t make sense to me.”
And, Burr said that the firing “made our task a little more difficult but it didn’t make it impossible so we'll continue.”
Burr said he spoke to Trump but wouldn’t detail the exchange. He said they didn’t discuss his committee’s investigation
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee says Trump told her that he was firing Comey because “the department is a mess.”
Feinstein said she was surprised and taken aback after Trump called her and other senators to deliver the news shortly before the White House announced Comey’s dismissal Tuesday.
Feinstein says she questions the reasoning and timing behind Trump’s decision and asked the GOP-led committee to bring in Justice Department officials to explain it.
She said what “sticks in her mind” is a classified briefing Comey delivered in March in which he laid out counterintelligence and criminal investigations the FBI is conducting into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
She said it’s clear “the FBI was taking its job seriously.”
The Senate’s Russia investigators are asking the Treasury Department’s criminal investigation division for any information relevant to Trump, his top aides and campaign officials.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, told CNN that the request is part of the panel’s effort to “follow the intel no matter where it leads.” Warner’s office confirmed the senator’s comments.
Meanwhile, Trump is attacking Sen. Richard Blumenthal for criticizing his firing of Comey.
The Connecticut Democrat appeared on MSNBC and CNN Wednesday morning. On CNN, Blumenthal said that the firing had prompted a “looming constitutional crisis.”
Trump tweeted Wednesday that he was watching Blumenthal speak, calling it a “joke.” He criticized Blumenthal for past statements that he served in Vietnam, saying he “would talk of his great bravery and conquests in Vietnam - except he was never there.”
Trump said that Blumenthal “cried like a baby” when caught and that he should be investigated.
Trump has previously attacked Blumenthal over statements that he served in Vietnam. Blumenthal was in the Marine Corps Reserves at the time but did not fight in Vietnam.
Trump says that Republicans and Democrats will soon “be thanking me” for firing Comey.
Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning that Comey had “lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike.” He added: “when things calm down, they will be thanking me!”